The Hills at Home

In the first book of a projected series, Nancy Clark introduces the Hills, a New England family whose members all seem to be marching to different drummers. Lily Hill, the matriarch of the family, is quite happy living alone in the ancestral home, which is located in a small town north of Boston. However, Lily is much too well-bred to object when her relatives arrive, dragging not only their bags but all their emotional baggage as well.

Lily’s brother Harvey is in dire need of a fourth wife, and not just for companionship; their niece Ginger is searching for her identity and contemplating a divorce; Ginger’s brother Alden, who has lost his job on Wall Street, is seeking a new direction for his life; and Lily’s great-nephew Arthur is waiting for the world to recognize his brilliance as a stand-up comic. Lily also has to provide for Ginger’s daughter, Alden’s wife and his four children, and Arthur’s girlfriend, and she also takes in a graduate student, who plans to write a thesis about the Hills, and his patron, a lovesick diplomat with the FBI hot on his trail.

The Hills at Home is a highly entertaining book. The dialogue is fascinating, for though the Hills talk incessantly, they are too eccentric to say anything trite. Moreover, the author has no difficulty maintaining suspense: since the characters rarely act rationally, one cannot predict with any certainty what any of them will do next. When the family finally disperses, Lily is understandably relieved. However, for Nancy Clark’s readers, the Hills can hardly return too soon.