Cover image for Caroline's daughters
Title:
Caroline's daughters
Author:
Adams, Alice, 1926-1999.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1991.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780394568256
Format :
Book

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Grand Island Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

Set in San Francisco during the '80s, Caroline's Daughters brings readers into the interconnected lives of the Carter women--a mother and five daughters. Following these women through the course of year, we see their decpetionsm, pleasures, successess and failures, and we see Caroline finding a new path for herself which may eventually lead her to a different last lovely city. LG Featured Alternate.


Author Notes

Alice Adams was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1926 and grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. After graduating from Radcliffe College, she married and had a son in 1951. Adams later recalled her late 20s and early 30s as the worst years of her life. After divorcing her husband in 1958, she worked at secretarial and clerical jobs to support herself and her son.

Adams published her first work of fiction when she was about thirty, and was more than forty-years-old by the time she began making a living solely as a writer. In 1982, in recognition of the twelfth consecutive appearance of her work in "Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards," Adams won a special award for continuing achievement. The only other previous winners were Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike. A New York Times best-selling author, many of Adams's books, among them A Southern Exposure and Almost Perfect, focus on love and on women struggling to find their place in the world. Other works of Adams include the novels Medicine Men, a story that explores the relationship between doctors and their patients, and Superior Women, a compelling tale of five women who come of age during World War II.

Now a San Francisco resident, Adams's work has been compared for Southern flavor to that of Flannery O'Connor and for sophistication to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

(Bowker Author Biography) Alice Adams was born in Virginia and graduated from Radcliffe College. The author of eleven novels and dozens of prize-winning short stories, she was the recipient of an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. She lived in San Francisco until her death in 1999.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

As Adams's ( Superior Women ) subtle, involving novel begins, Caroline Carter returns home to San Francisco and to her five daughters by three marriages, most of whom were radicals in the '60s and now live vastly different lives. The eldest daughter, Sage, is an unsuccessful ceramic sculptor whose husband is unfaithful; Liza, the wife of a psychiatrist and the mother of three, wants to be a writer; rich Fiona runs a trendy restaurant; Jill is also raking in money as a lawyer-stockbroker (she turns tricks for kicks and big money); ``shy, strange'' Portia is sexually confused. Caroline is unobtrusively present across the spectrum of her daughters' varied lifestyles, and there is another shadowy link: Roland Gallo, Sage's former lover, who is now bedding Fiona and has a thing for Caroline. Meanwhile, Sage's husband dallies with Jill. Though Adams develops the story in her usual desultory style, there is enough action for all of Caroline's daughters and Caroline herself to undergo huge swings of the pendulum in their careers and private lives. As much a picture of America in the '90s (the specter of AIDS, the growing number of homeless people) as it is of one family's vicissitudes, the novel ends with Caroline's observations about her ``beautiful, selfish, spoiled and greedy girls,'' products of a society visibly coming apart. Literary Guild alternate. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Although unique in character, all four of Caroline's San Franciscan daughters are inclined to be both self-indulgent and overwhelmed by yuppie angst. Sage, 41, is a ceramist who initially has more luck in attracting unfaithful men than in becoming a successful artist. At 35, Liza is the most dependable and dreams of being a writer instead of fulfilling the desires of her children and sexually demanding husband. Fiona, 33, is a wealthy, hedonistic restaurateur who falls victim to one of Sage's ex-lovers. A well-heeled 31-year-old lawyer, Jill satisfies her fantasies by indulging in a scandalous pastime. Portia, 25, the most boring and undeveloped character, drifts from housesitting to gardening and writing poems. In her 11th work, Adams explores familial relationships at their best and worst but falls short of the mark in holding the reader's interest. Literary Guild alternate; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/90.-- Mary El len Elsbernd, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Caroline Carter and her husband, Ralph, as a couple are impressive, even imposing: perched at the top of a broad concrete flight of stairs, in one of San Francisco's prettiest, greenest and most elevated parks (the view is marvellous, hills and tall buildings, church spires and further high green parks), they draw a lot of attention from the stray passers-by, the dog walkers and strollers, on this bright April Sunday. For one thing they both look foreign, Caroline and Ralph, although Caroline has lived in this city for many years and Ralph is a native son. But now, out of the country for over five years, they wear mildly eccentric clothes. Caroline's heavy gray sweater (she expected fog) is un-American in design, as is the cut of Ralph's tweed jacket. Also, they are very large people, Caroline a tall fair woman, broad-faced, serene, with wide-set green-blue eyes and heavy gray-blonde hair -- and Ralph a towering, massive man, once called "hulking" by a hostile press. Ralph is Caroline's third husband, and she his fourth wife -- an unpropitious history, perhaps, but after twenty-five years this marriage seems to have taken: they look quite permanently married. And, almost rich and almost old, Caroline is back in a city where for many years she was young and almost broke, where four of her five daughters were born, and where she enjoyed a number of lovers. A lively life, then, and in its way romantic, although Caroline is eminently a realist, a practical, sensible woman. Or so she sees herself, generally. At the moment they are sitting there like tourists in the early sunlight, looking down the terraced hill and across the street to their own house -- from which they have been temporarily expelled by those five daughters, who are giving a welcome-home party for Ralph and Caroline. A somewhat delayed welcome back: their actual return from Portugal, where they spent most of those five years, took place in January. In any case the daughters, Sage, Liza, Fiona, Jill and Portia, are "doing it all," bringing food and drink and even flowers -- quite foolishly, Caroline thinks, her garden is full of flowers. It is the sort of party that has been discussed and discussed, and that Caroline has all along tried somehow to prevent, but has not. And now it is almost upon her. Upon them all. The food will be almost entirely done by Fiona, the middle, highly successful food-person daughter: "Fiona's" is an extremely trendy, very popular (this year) California-cuisine restaurant, on Potrero Hill. Everything about this project has contributed to Caroline's unease, now expressed in her restless posture, and her large strong hands that gesture helplessness from her lap. "I'd like it so much better if they were all doing it, and not just Fiona," she says, with a small worried frown. "Or if I were doing it all myself." "If you were doing it all." Ralph laughs at her, gently. "Come on, Caro." But Caroline insists. "Well, it is our house. Even if food is what Fiona does. Ostensibly. So funny, she really can't cook. I don't know, it just all seems wrong. Everything," she vaguely finishes. "Our rich kids," Ralph supplies. "I suppose that's part of it. To have two such extremely successful ones, in ways I never knew about or even imagined." Ralph makes an ambiguous sound, expressing to Caroline the fact that she has said all this before, more or less. But she does not mind this comment from Ralph, whom she loves (usually); she has needed, repeatedly, to say how she feels about these particular daughters, the very rich ones: Fiona, at thirty-three the well-known restaurateur (does anyone say "restaurateuse," Caroline wonders?), and Jill, at thirty-one a very rich young lawyer-stockbroker. "Well, there's always Portia," Ralph put in, now in his turn repeating himself. "We can count on her not to get ahead, I think." Portia, twenty-five, is the one and only daughter from the marriage of Caroline and Ralph. "Well, you're right about Portia," says Caroline about this youngest, most problematic child. "And then there's Sage," she adds, with a sigh for her eldest daughter, a bravely unsuccessful, highly talented (in her mother's view) ceramicist, whose strange, small, intensely expressive figures sell rarely or not at all, in their occasional viewings, in local galleries. Sage, now forty-one, is the product of Caroline's very early (at nineteen) marriage to Aaron Levine, who died in that war, in 1943, before Sage was born. Subtle, dark Sage is the image of her father. She seems given to trouble: fairly soon after the demise of a spectacularly unfortunate love affair with a local lawyer-politico, she married a man named Noel Finn, who is overly handsome (again, in Caroline's view), a carpenter, some seven years younger than Sage. "Sage will be the first to come today," says Caroline, who is now beginning to speak her thoughts aloud. "And she'll bring some present that I won't quite know what to do with. And there'll be some excuse about Noel." Caroline is right, as things turn out, but before that happens she and Ralph get up and walk about, and they talk about how much San Francisco has changed since they left it in 1980 (Reagan's year, as they think of it), and how much they like their house, despite neighborhood changes. Behind where Caroline and Ralph were sitting is a tall grove of waving pines and redwoods, enclosing a little play area for children. Sandboxes, slides -- all at the moment unoccupied, amazing in this sunshine, this early fog-free morning. The long flight of stairs is flanked by terraces of grass, marked off with hedges and narrow paths. And below is a street, on the other side of which is a row of very attractive houses, all originally (just before the turn of the century) identical. And one of these is Caroline and Ralph's. It is really Caroline's house. She bought it when she first came to San Francisco as a young widow in the Forties, an investment for which she used the last of her husband's insurance money. The house was in bad shape at that time, sagging and neglected; Caroline, who is skillful with houses, had it all fixed up -- and in the course of that long process (she kept running out of money) she grew to love the house but could not afford to live in it. Also, her next (second) husband, Dr. James McAndrew, did not like the neighborhood, at that time considered "bad," too close to what was then known as "the Fillmore," an area where mostly black people lived. And so, with Jim, Caroline moved to a "better" neighborhood, and she rented out her house. (Liza, now thirty-five, and then Fiona and Jill came in an orderly succession during that marriage of Caroline's to Jim -- whom she divorced in 1959 in order to marry Ralph, by whom she was then pregnant with Portia.) As Caroline herself would have been the first to admit, she was stubborn and foolhardy about the house, rather than prescient. She did not have an instinct for real estate, she did not think in those terms. Her feelings about the house's drastic rise in value are ambivalent, to say the least (upper Fillmore Street was "gentrified," the black people "relocated"). She did have an instinct for houses, perhaps an atavistic inheritance from her English mother, the actress-playwright Molly Blair. She bought the house, really, because it was small and beautiful; she felt that it would suit her perfectly, and she was quite right. But Ralph, when they first married, did not want to live in the house for an opposite reason to Jim McAndrew's: for him the neighborhood was much too fancy, he felt (Ralph is a former longshoreman, later a political writer). Then, in 1980, Molly Blair died, and a subsequent revival of interest in her work, publication of new editions of her plays, gave Caroline, her only child, a fair amount of money. And Reagan was elected. And Ralph had a mild heart attack. "Take it easy. Change your life," he was fairly forcefully advised. For a combination of reasons, then, after distributing much of her money among her daughters, Caroline and Ralph took off for Portugal, where they spent almost five years -- during which the tenants of the house were elderly friends of Caroline's, who died within months of each other this past year, a strong reason for the return from Portugal of Caroline and Ralph. They returned to a valuable and perfectly maintained house; sheer practicality helped to persuade Ralph to live there after all. Their south garden, a treasure, widely coveted in San Francisco, grew bountifully -- just now, in April, full of roses and camellias, rhododendron, white wisteria. "It's a perfect house for two people," in their sunnier moments Caroline and Ralph have remarked to each other. And, at darker times, "How can the two of us possibly occupy a whole house? with all the homeless people -- " In their walk about the park, marking time until the arrival of the daughters and the pre-emption of their own roles, in their own house, Ralph and Caroline have touched lightly on all these topics, including that of the beauty of their garden. "It must be in my genes," Caroline has earlier remarked. "The way I respond to gardens. I absolutely fall in love." "Except that I really like the garden too," Ralph tells her. "My Texas genes?" Ralph's parents, grandparents, great grandparents all were Texans, a fact often manifest in his voice. Especially as he ages, Caroline thinks, he sounds more and more Southern. Texan. And they now return to the more pressing topic of their daughters. So many! Whatever have I done to deserve five daughters? rueful Caroline has been heard to remark, and there does seem a certain illogic to that fate, in her particular case. (And it was in many ways the presence of all those young women in San Francisco -- like many California offspring, those five cannot imagine life elsewhere, for themselves -- that kept Caroline for all those years away in Portugal. "I simply don't want to be so present in their lives," said Caroline.) "I sometimes don't think Sage really likes Fiona very much," Caroline next remarks. "Or for that matter Jill." "How could she? All that money that both of them seem to have." Ralph tends to speak more succinctly than Caroline does; conversationally he does not wander, as he sometimes accuses Caroline of doing. "But she and Liza always seem great pals." "Everyone likes Liza. She's the most like you." This is a remark that Caroline often hears, not only from Ralph -- so often that she is tired of responding to it. What she might say, of herself and Liza, might be: We only sort of look alike, both being large, and she has three children. But we've got very different characters, lucky for her. Ralph, that quintessential American, that most unlikely expatriate, was in fact quite happy in Lisbon, during those years. His solution -- and this was a part of the overall unlikeliness of it all -- was to domesticate himself, in ways hitherto quite unimaginable for him. He not only learned to cook, he went out to markets and he bargained, endlessly and successfully, in a language he could not speak, coming home with the largest cod and the smallest shellfish, at bargain prices. And this from a man whose life before that had been of the most intense and public involvement; in San Francisco he was known to be a not-too-secret political kingmaker -- and a man who had always come home, to all those wives, expecting meals on time and clean clothes, a clean bed and a pretty, accommodating wife, and who had always found all that, except for very brief between-wife periods. "It's something new for me," was Ralph's explanation to Caroline. And, "I like the fish." She came to understand that he also liked the docks and the fishermen, the whole waterfront atmosphere; it was what he was used to, and missed. Whereas Caroline, who had spent her life in domestic pursuits, now spent all her days in museums and galleries. She even did some sketches and some tentative watercolors from their small apartment, high up in the Alfama, the old quarter of Lisbon, near the Castel San Georgio. They had a view of the harbor, boats and the bridge, the Twenty-fifth of April Bridge, built to commemorate the Generals' Revolution, the end of fascism. And all around them geraniums bloomed, on balconies and terraces, every shade from white to pink, orange to deep scarlet. One of the best aspects of Lisbon was its access to the rest of Europe. Ralph and Caroline flew to London or Paris or Rome, they took trains to Madrid or Barcelona. And so those Portuguese years worked out quite well -- but nevertheless they both became quite restless, impatient. Travel writing was not his métier, Ralph decided, and Caroline felt that her sketches were hopelessly amateur. And then everything seemed at once to conspire to bring them home, most immediately the deaths of their tenants, the vacancy of their house. They both, especially Caroline, had a sense that by this time theirdaughters were all right, or were at least settled on courses that they, the parent figures, would be unlikely to deflect. Sage had her ceramics, and her marriage to Noel. Liza was married to Saul Jacobs, a psychiatrist, and had her three babies. Fiona had her restaurant, Jill her law and her money. And Portia had her Bolinas shack, where (it was generally believed) she wrote poetry. What could change? "Well, of course you were right, there's Sage's car." Unnecessarily, Ralph points downward to the battered, mud-spattered, once-black, once-convertible VW. Sage is just getting out, alone, and maneuvering a very large box. Tall, too-thin Sage is wearing white pants, probably Levi's, andsomething striped on top that is from Cost Plus, probably. Sageresists clothes, she tends to beat them up, to pour liquids over them.Her long, very dark hair is unfashionably pony-tailed. All in all sheseems to be saying that she does not care, does not care that she isgetting into her forties, that her husband is seven years younger andvery handsome. But Caroline, looking at Sage as objectively as possible, still thinks that this daughter, this difficult eldest, is very beautiful, perhaps the only truly beautiful one. Ralph agrees: "Fiona and Jill are sexy but not true beauties." But they also agree that Sage should fix up a little more, as Ralph puts it. (Liza is very pretty but too fat, and Portia is, well, odd-looking; she looks like Ralph.) Caroline calls out to Sage from where they are walking down the steps, and Sage waits for them where she stands, leaning against her dirty old car, with her big brown cardboard box. "Noel had to go down the Peninsula," is the first thing that Sage says, with a quick downward twist of her mouth -- once kisses have been exchanged among the three of them, out there on the sidewalk, in the very unseasonal hot sun. "Honestly, these damn clients expect maintenance too," Sage says, and then adds, with a lift of her small cleft chin, "Of course it's a lot his fault. Noel loves to feel indispensable." "Darling. I suppose we all do, don't we?" At times Caroline still sounds just faintly British, more inheritance from Molly. Her father was a New Englander, a Connecticut Yankee. "Men are like that, kiddo." Ralph likes teasing Sage, who has been known not to take it very well, possibly (Caroline thinks) because she was an only child for all those years, those six before Liza was born. And perhaps for the same reason Caroline is aware of being over-protective of this daughter. Still. "Sage, whatever have you brought in that great box?" As they walk toward the house Caroline for an instant puts an arm across her daughter's thin shoulders. "Can't Ralph carry it in for you?" "No, it's okay." As they reach the front steps, from inside the house the phone begins to ring, and Ralph hurries in to get it. "That could be Noel," Sage tells her mother. "Coming after all. Maybe." Her smile is brief, and wistful. "Or Portia not coming at all," says Caroline. "Well honey, I'm just sorry," they hear Ralph say as they enter. "We'll do it later. See you and celebrate." "Portia," says Caroline to Sage. "You're so always right," says Sage, with a little laugh. "I know, it's tiresome, isn't it. Sage, do put that down." "It's Portia, want to talk to her?" Ralph, from the kitchen phone. "No, just give love." Caroline and Sage then walk through the long narrow white Victorian living room, through the dining room to the deck, where at last Sage deposits the big square box. Very carefully; clearly its contents could break. "Portia's car has died." Ralph has come out to stand beside them, on the deck that Caroline has so filled with pots of flowers that very little room is left for furniture, or for people. Roses, mostly. Two rose trees, full and white, and smaller bushes of yellow, peach and pink and lavender (Sterling Silver, a delicate favorite of Caroline's), but also two lemon trees, and three large wooden tubs of poppies and ranunculuses, all now in bloom. And smaller pots of thriving marguerites, all over. Below the deck and down in the garden are still more roses, tall rose trees and bushes of roses, all placed at rather formal intervals, in tidy beds that surround a circular area of brick. In the farthest bed, at the very back of the garden, are two enormous twin camellias, now profusely flowering, dark scarlet. It has been so far an exceptionally sunny spring, leading to talks of drought, and Caroline has feared for her flowers, just now so lovely. "You might as well open your present," Sage instructs, indicating the box, with a smile that to her mother signals pride. Caroline works at the taped-down flaps, and then for no reason that she can think of (except that she always makes guesses, as she opens presents) she says, "I know, you've made me a birdbath." "Jesus, Mother. I hate you, I really do." Dismayed at the accuracy of her intuition (and, having had it, why on earth did she have to blurt it out like that?), Caroline sees that what Sage has brought is a birdbath: a wide, shallow, blueglazed bowl, with tiny birds, a small frieze of birds perched here and there on its ridge. "But darling, it's so beautiful, that glaze -- " "But how did you know what it was? Jesus, Mother." Sage's thin lovely face is pulled into a frown. Her pale-brown skin is lightly freckled, her eyes troubled but golden, clear gold. "I don't know, it was just a lucky guess. Let's put it over here. Look, it's perfect." "All that noise has got to be Fiona," says Ralph. "Besides, you always think of what I really lust for," adds Caroline, to Sage. "I did want a birdbath. I need one, and this is ravishing." She goes over to give Sage a quick light kiss. Fiona's arrival is a big production, taking place as it does from her restaurant's big white van. FIONA is emblazoned on one side. And Fiona has brought along an assistant, a fat, very pretty young woman who immediately begins to unload a series of white food boxes. "You didn't exactly leave me a lot of room," is Fiona's opening remark to her older half-sister, Sage. "I didn't know you were bringing that truck, I thought the Ferrari." "How could I get all this food into the Ferrari?" "How many people did you think were coming?" asks Ralph, as boxes are passed into the kitchen, either stacked or piled into the refrigerator. "Well, isn't Liza bringing her kids?" "She only has three, and they're little," Caroline reminds her. "Oh well." Fiona's pale-blonde hair is very long; all three of Caroline's daughters by Jim McAndrew have wispy blonde hair, as he does, and they have his eyes, very large and pale gray. Fiona dresses smartly, always, "dressed for success," as the advertisers (and her sisters) put it. Today she wears very tailored pale linen, two shades of brown, and trim brown shoes -- in which she now walks about the deck, inspecting flowers, then looking into the birdbath. "Terrific," is her mild comment. Fiona is thin, very thin, but nature intended her to be otherwise, or so Caroline thinks, observing this daughter. Caroline sees Fiona's wide bones, quite like her own, stretching the pummelled, pampered skin. Sexy Fiona, how odd that she seems to have no lovers, thinks sexy Caroline. "Where's Jill?" Fiona then asks. "She's coming?" "I guess, but we haven't heard from her." "Some big deal in her life, no doubt," sniffs Fiona. To say that Fiona is ambivalently pleased by the success of her younger sister would be to put it mildly. "Portia's car died," contributes Ralph. "Lord, what else is new?" "Well, it must be time for drinks, what would everyone like?" Caroline and Ralph say these things at almost exactly the same moment, then laugh at themselves for so doing. Sage wants wine with some ice in it. "I know that's awful, Noel the purist would die, but it's just so hot." Fiona wants a Perrier. In the kitchen, faced with all those boxes of food, Ralph and Caroline exclaim to each other, "Look at all she's brought, it's terrible, we'll have to take it all somewhere -- some shelter, a food bank." "Well, anyway, here's Liza and her gang." And indeed, trooping up the steps are two small children in impressively white clothes, followed by their parents: Liza, carrying a baby, a very small one; and Saul Jacobs, the father, psychiatrist, carrying several paper sacks and also a very large bunch of oversized pink peonies. (And Caroline thinks, as she sometimes has before, how very much she likes this shrink son-in-law, this Saul -- and how little she seems to feel for the children. Her grandchildren. They're quite nice enough, in their way, but after all only children. And she wonders, perhaps her strong affections for the very young are simply worn out, nothing left?) Liza is as large as, in Caroline's view, Fiona was meant to be. In her invariable blue denim prairie skirt, her white lace Mexican blouse, blue beads, she bustles in and kisses everyone present in turn, with effusive greetings for all. "Mom, you look super, you look home. Ralph, don't you love your house? Does the garden give you enough chores to keep you happy? Skinny Fiona, what on earth have you brought in all those boxes, goodies to keep the rest of us all happy and fat? Darling Sage, you look so beautiful, where's Noel?" And, turning back to her mother and Ralph, "Where're Jill and Portia?" "Portia's car," they tell her. "We haven't heard from Jill." "Noel had to work," Sage adds. By this time, Fiona's helper is carrying boxes out onto the deck, and, assisted by Ralph, Fiona begins to arrange an assortment of salads, cold pastas and thick cold soups. And cheese and fruit and pastry. Mustards, relishes. Breads and special butters, in crocks. We'll never be able to eat all that, Caroline begins to say, and then does not, not wishing to sound unappreciative of her daughter's largesse. But it isn't really largesse, she reminds herself. It's "free," in the curious sense that expense-account meals are free, and certain trips. All are part of an extremely expensive bit of unreality, the unreality in which the very rich spend all their time, insulated, as though in capsules. Including Fiona and the absentJill. And then, more practically, she thinks, Well, Liza can take home some leftovers. Picnic lunches all week for the kids. And she thinks, at the rate Saul's going he'll certainly never be rich. (Saul donates considerable time, most recently to an emotional-support project for people with AIDS.) A light confusion then takes over the party, and reigns for the next several hours, actually. There is not enough ice: how come Caroline had not emptied and refilled all the ice trays early on? (It is Caroline who demands this, aloud, of herself, Ralph not being given to that sort of petulant nagging.) The children want a variety of soft drinks, mostly ones not there. "I'm not about to go out to any market, so just settle down," Saul, their stern father, tells them. And isn't it time to eat? All the cold food will warm up in the sunshine and lose its flavor, according to Fiona. Then from the doorway is heard a voice, high-pitched and quite familiar to them all: "This fucking van, where in hell do you expect a person to park?" And there is Jill, her pale-blonde hair short and sleek, a small cap, a helmet. Jill, in pale-pink silk, looking slightly rumpled, and flustered -- and, as Ralph has, said, very sexy. "I thought I left plenty of room. You do look fabulous, Jill. "Hurry up. We're just starting, my kids will eat it all up if we don't." "Where on earth have you been?" Thus more or less in chorus is Jill greeted by her sisters. She chooses, though, to answer only Sage's somewhat accusing question. "I had some work to do," she tells Sage, and then, "Where's Noel? He's working too?" She laughs again, and seems not to expect an answer. "I will have a glass of wine," she tells Ralph. "It all seems so festive, I feel rather festive myself." As though deliberately, the three blonde daughters have clustered together, Liza, Fiona, and Jill, all happily out in the sunshine, in their summer clothes, with plates of summer food before them. Sage, isolating herself somewhat, chooses a shaded corner of the deck, near a budding yellow rose. Caroline is moved to go over to her, though not to say what is most in her mind, not to say, You're worried over Noel, you shouldn't be, he's just not worth it. Although that is what she would have liked to say. And Caroline sighs, with the further self-critical observation, How much a mother I do seem still to be! So annoying, no wonder I haven't done much else with my life. To Sage, though, what she does say is, "How's your work going these days? Do I get to come to your studio any time soon?" Copyright © 1991 by Alice Adams Excerpted from Caroline's Daughters by Alice Adams All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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