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The Faraday Girls    by Monica McInerney order for
Faraday Girls
by Monica McInerney
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The five Faraday Girls are (in order of age) homemaker Juliet, vivid and sharp-tongued Miranda, driven, athletic Eliza, confused 'runt of the litter' Sadie, and ever rational and intelligent Clementine. When the story opens in 1979, their mother Tessa has been dead for eight years. They live with their inventor father Leo in Hobart, Tasmania, taking all that life throws at them in their stride.

When sixteen-year-old Clementine becomes pregnant, her sisters give their full support, simply adding childcare of small Maggie to the schedule of household duties that they all share in a roster system. It works well for a while, with some adjustments. But the Faraday family life has been - unbeknownst to the sisters - built on lies, and their generation continues that tradition by keeping a great deal from each other. Juliet wants more from life than cooking in the café, Miranda has liaisons with clients of the pharmacy where she works, Eliza has a serious crush on her trainer, Sadie has stopped attending her college courses, and Clementine finds young motherhood much more demanding than she anticipated.

The bereft Leo has always painted an idealized picture of his wife to the girls. When they ask to read their mother's diary, he tells them that he burnt it as Tessa had asked him to do. But that's another lie, and Sadie's discovery of, and reading from, the diary becomes a catalyst that drives her away from her father, sisters, and beloved niece. Though Sadie sends Maggie a card every year through a local priest, she otherwise isolates herself completely from her family and makes her own way in life, weaving her own stories about her background. The remaining sisters leave Hobart to pursue their lives, romances and varied careers.

The story then fast forwards to 2006 to show us an adult Maggie, who has fled to New York after a crisis of conscience at work, aggravated by the discovery of her live-in lover in bed with her best friend. Maggie meets the engaging Gabriel West while volunteering at Rent-a-Grandchild. The Faraday family has long held a tradition of celebrating Christmas in July as well as December. When Maggie bows out and it seems that her aunts will follow her lead, Leo flies to New York to inveigle his granddaughter - and Gabriel - into attending the celebration in Donegal. Leo also asks Maggie to read Tessa's diary (which he has never opened) and learn from it why Sadie left them.

In The Faraday Girls, Monica McInerney shows us very real sisters, dealing with the kinds of squabbles and shifting alliances that are natural between siblings. Several story threads reach crisis point at the reunion in Ireland, some truths being revealed and others withheld. Though I was uncomfortable with the degree to which lies weaved through this family's lives - and were accepted as reasonable by many of them - I enjoyed the sisters' and their niece's story very much and recommend it to you as the best kind of family saga.

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