REVIEW: GOLDBERG VARIATIONS, BY SUSAN ISAACS

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Gloria Goldberg Garrison was not your typical grandmother. None of her grandchildren would describe her as indulgent…or even present, for that matter.

So when she summons them to her home in Santa Fe, just before her 80th birthday, they have to wonder what is going on.

They arrive in a car she sent to the airport: Matthew and Daisy, children of Gloria’s son Bradley; and Raquel, the daughter of Gloria’s deceased son (and favorite), Travis.

She leads them to the conservatory, and its coldness, a perfect setting for awkward conversation. They wait. There is lots of posturing. And then she lays it on them. They will stay for a few days, and at the end of their time together, she will offer her multimillion dollar company, Glory, to one of them. And the other two will get nothing.

As you can imagine, we get to see behind the scenes, as each character reveals more in his or her first-person narrative. And Gloria’s narrative is a little surprising, considering who she has become. But growing up in Cincinnati in the 1950s has left its scars. Could her childhood and adolescence have informed this cold person she now seems to be?

Matthew and Daisy appear to be pretty “together,” despite their negligent grandmother. But Raquel seems a bit defensive and a little bit scarred as well, even though her social worker mother has done a good job of establishing a moral compass for her. Even though Raquel’s father was Gloria’s favorite, none of that benevolence descended to his child. Raquel recalls a time when her mother asked for financial assistance from Gloria, but was met with a cold shoulder.

What will happen to them all by the end of their visit? Can the grandchildren forget the neglect? Will any of them be willing or able to do as she asks? And how will Gloria feel afterwards?

I am a fan of this author, so, while I did find Goldberg Variations: A Story of Three Cousins and a Fortune entertaining, and even though I was definitely intrigued by the proposition the grandmother made, in the end, I was pretty certain of how everything would unfold. There was an interesting twist that I enjoyed and which was unexpected…and elevated this one to 4 stars for me.

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