Golden Richards, a prominent, hard-working community leader and businessman, loves his family dearly, although with twenty-eight children and four wives, they do wear him out. Sometimes all he wants is a little peace and quiet, someone who doesn’t talk too much, understands him, helps him relax. Does it make any sense that The Lonely Polygamist (W.W. Norton, $15.95) would seek relief in the arms of a fifth woman? One who happens to be married to his boss? As a matter of fact, it just might. It will surprise you how normal the dysfunctions of this large, rambunctious family really are, and how Barry Udall, who wrote the article in Esquire that inspired the hit television show, manages to follow and develop so many characters and themes in one entertaining book.
Gardiner Amory, Father Of The Rain (Grove, $14.95), has a sharp wit, plays a mean game of tennis, and charms women instantly. He’s also an alcoholic given to rages and erratic behavior that drives people away. His daughter Daley, the narrator of Lily King’s third novel, is caught in this perfect storm of a parent. As a child she longs to make her father laugh—his real laugh, not one of his fake or treacherous ones. Years pass. Gardiner’s wives come and go. Daley leaves town, has no contact with Gardiner for extended periods, but never quite achieves an independent life. When her father has a crisis she sacrifices her career, friends, and possibly her future to go back and help him. He needs her, he has no one else. Or does she only need to think he needs her? Daley faces her own twelve steps as she struggles to achieve a balanced relationship with her volatile father.
In Imperfect Birds (Riverhead, $15), Anne Lamott returns to characters she introduced in Rosie and Crooked Little Heart. Rosie Ferguson, now a senior in high school, is experimenting with drugs and boys, lying to her parents, and spinning slowly and surely out of control. Her mother and stepfather try to rein in Rosie’s behavior, but she continues to deceive them, testing the limits to see what she can get away with. Lamott’s family drama deals with the denial and deception that goes along with substance abuse, and her prose is frank, true, and often very funny even in the most emotionally charged scenes.