Caroline’s Daughters

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Viewers caught in the summer lull between the announced cancellation of THIRTYSOMETHING and the promised return of this yuppie soap opera in the fall may well want to look into CAROLINE’S DAUGHTERS, the seventh novel by the highly regarded short story writer, Alice Adams. The novel follows a year in the life of Caroline Carter and her five daughters (by three marriages) and begins soon after Caroline, sixty-five, and her third husband, Ralph, a leftist political writer and former longshoreman, have returned from a five-year stay in Lisbon (paid for, like most of her daughters’ homes, by money from the estate of Caroline’s actress-playwright mother. Sibling rivalry, inadequate mother-daughter relations, and domestic crises predominate along with descriptions of scenic views, attractive homes, terrific food, expensive clothing, and especially San Francisco’s usually glorious weather.

Caroline will, of course, weather all the tough times, including Ralph’s death. Daughter Sage, forty-one, the aging hippie and struggling ceramicist, will survive her affair with a much older man (a randy mayoral candidate who goes on to have an affair with her sister Fiona and tries to seduce her mother), will throw herself at one of her two stepfathers, and finally not only have her career as an artist blossom but have her adulterous husband agree to a divorce (without apparently asking for any of her money) and become happily pregnant (by a man in tune with his...

(The entire section is 555 words.)