Family. You love ’em, you hate ’em, you can’t live without ’em. It can be tough to keep a family together, even when you’ve been provided all the privileges in the world, like the family in Ramona Ausubel’s Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty.
Fern comes from an old money family and Edgar comes from new wealth thanks to the steel industry. Neither really care for the money, but they have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, as have their three children. When Fern finds out that all her family money is gone, Edgar is faced with the choice to fend for himself or take over his father’s steel business that he opposes. The fracture between Fern and Edgar grows when Edgar’s last hurrah involves an affair, which drives Fern to retaliate similarly. But in getting revenge on each other, they come to a better understanding of what they mean to one another.
The story reads well and is relatively easy to relate to regardless of how you were brought up. The struggles of finding yourself and loving your family transcend social class, which is the strong suit of this novel. With a relatively quick pacing, the story evolves over a few days, supplemented with flashbacks to demonstrate why Fern and Edgar behave in the manner they do that, which provides a more complex, multi-threaded story.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.