Arden Benbow, the mother of six children born during her twelve-year marriage to Whitney Malthus. The marriage ends in divorce after Arden meets and falls in love with Alice Wicks and realizes how oppressive and controlling Malthus has always been. Malthus vindictively sues Arden for custody of the children on the grounds that as a lesbian, she is an unfit mother. Arden’s goodness and caring love are testified to by most of the people who know her, and they celebrate with her when she wins custody rights. Much of what she has learned about life came from her irrepressible Aunt Vi. Arden was born on the San Andreas faultline in Southern California, and she knows life is tenuous and always subject to change. She believes that life should be lived with enthusiasm and joy rather than with a selfish or narrow-minded hostility to others. Whether it is releasing the overabundance of rabbits she has into a wilderness area, rearing her children, or hosting a party, she does it with energy and style.
Violet Groot, Arden’s Aunt Vi, the woman of “furious activity” who is an inspiration for Arden and many others. Aunt Vi’s husband tries to control her, but she will not be kept down. She works in a variety of jobs, from yo-yo painter to cake icer to bookie. Mr. Groot has a mistress and quickly puts Vi in a hospital after she suffers a minor stroke. Unwilling to end her life institutionalized, she enlists the help of a young orderly, Mario Carbonara. She invites her niece Arden—then a young woman just out of college—to travel with her and Mario to Mexico, and Vi makes friends wherever they go. She especially impresses Ruby, a former stripper from San Francisco who...
(The entire section is 711 words.)