The real subject of Caroline's Daughters is the American landscape in the 1980's and its effects on those who came to maturity in it. Adams examines life in that gilded age through the perspective of a mother and her five daughters, their secrets and distances, and their concurrent desire for separation and connectedness. Characters are always conscious of their particular place in history—their past, and its role in their present. Caroline and her husband, Ralph Carter, are liberal-radical denizens of a bygone era, just back from five years in Portugal, and aging beautifully, if a little taken aback at the changes they have come home to. Liza, the would-be writer, provides the most thoughtful insights; she remembers her 1960's childhood while watching her own children play in the sandbox in a park where she went to get stoned in high school, thinking how completely gone those days are, "swallowed by the strange Nixonian Seventies, and now the awful Eighties." Of the five half-sisters, Liza is the only one to have what might be called a stable family life. Sage, married to handsome, undependable Noel, is another sixties throwback, and Portia is Generation Xer, living in a cabin in Bolinas and housesitting for a living. Jill and Fiona are 1980's success stories, one a highly successful investment lawyer, and the other owner of a trendy Potrero Hill restaurant.
It is these two who illustrate the 1980's lifestyle. Fiona is a restaurateur who cannot cook, hates food, and weighs less than ninety pounds, and Jill turns thousand- dollar tricks on the side, in what she calls "The Game." Money, power, and sexuality all combine into an aphrodisiac for the 1980's. Money is proof of worthiness: "I did it because I got a thousand bucks a shot, and I knew I was worth it, and getting all that money helped me keep on thinking I'm...
(The entire section is 749 words.)
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