Cover image for Steps and exes : a novel of family
Steps and exes : a novel of family
Kalpakian, Laura.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bard, [1999]

Physical Description:
321 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"An Avon book."
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In a novel both earthly and elegant, the award-winning author of Fair Augusto presents the story of an unforgettable woman whose strength and humor unite a fractured family. Online feature.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The legacy of the free-living 60s extends into the 90s in Kalpakians beguiling novel, in which changing social mores, sexual passion, the longing for family and the need for independence motivate a cast of engaging women. After Celia Westervelt lost her rich husband when he was swept off their yacht in a fog of marijuana, she vowed never to marry again. Instead she pours her imagination and energy into a charming bed and breakfast called Henrys House, located on Useless Point, Isadora Island, in Puget Sound. Enjoying what she calls the Unfettered Life, Celia has subsequent affairs with a variety of men, which produce two daughters and a stepdaughter. Now one of the girls has defied Celias injunction by deciding to tie the knot, and an engagement party at Henrys House becomes the gathering point for the extended clan, including an incongruous mixture of steps and exes. Kalpakian (Grace Land) evokes the pervasive dampness, insularity and placid beauty of island existence with pungent and sensuous detail, and she outdoes Martha Stewart in her descriptions of Henrys House, whose studied opulence provides the essence of faux-family heritage in every stuffed pillow, antique bibelot, lace dresser scarf and handmade quilt. Just when the ladies magazine atmosphere threatens to become cloying, Kalpakian darkens the canvas; a charge of child molestation blows the family apart, and other threats, such as breast cancer and divorce, are revealed. Kalpakian cleverly uses iconoclastic Celia to dramatize the irony of an independent womans need for family, but she makes Celia and the other female characters so vibrant that the menwith one exceptionare feckless in contrast, a whiney, dependent, irresponsible and demanding lot. She also goes a bit overboard in satirizing the smug self-righteousness of recovery movements that promise to heal and empower and instead terrorize innocent people. But her involving story succeeds on the strengths of its snappy dialogue and tart observations, and of its questions about what constitutes a family, and what, indeed, constitutes romance in this age of efficiency and feminism. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Proprietor of the most famous bed-and-breakfast in the Northwest, Celia Henry is a proponent of the "Unfettered Life" and of "Unfettered Love" (i.e., sans marriage), despite the fetters of her B&B, three daughters, and numerous ex-lovers and ex-"stepchildren." Her own beliefs notwithstanding, however, she grudgingly prepares for the engagement party extravaganza daughter Bethie has demanded. The party sets off a string of consequences that affect her daughters (two natural, one step), unleashing the venom of Bethie's fianc‚, once an addict and now a recovery guru, who persuades her that she has been the victim of incest at the hands of her stepsister's father and that her mother knew about the abuse and ignored it. Kalpakian is a veteran novelist (e.g., Caveat, LJ 5/15/98) whose lush, often laugh-out-loud prose deftly skewers the recovery movement as well as many of the cherished notions of the Sixties. Highly recommended.ÄFrancine Fialkoff, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.