Noah Robischon
June 27, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Sandra Newman
publisher
HarperCollins

We gave it a B-

The Moffat family is beyond dysfunctional. Adopted daughter Chrysalis literally crawls out from under the bed to learn that her absentee dad, once a CIA bio-weapons specialist, rescued her from Central America as a child. When mom dies, the family’s California mansion is left to Chrysalis’ belligerent brother, Eddie, who turns it into a Buddhist institute led by a sham shaman named Ralph. Their postmodern lives are so twisted — Ralph’s step-sister has been entangled with both Eddie and his father — that you get cramps. And there’s no relief in the long passages formatted in a word processor’s outline function: ”2.1 Friends could sit with Ralph for hours. 2.2 Friends passed the time as if it was cheap fuel.” It’s a needless crutch for Newman, who has a penetrating voice that could one day garner a devout following.

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