Kay is an accountant in Northern California, a self-described Wall Flower and the Pillar of a family that, decades after leaving the prairie, still celebrates Kansas Day. The Lady With the Alligator Purse is an astute tribute to the pleasures and perils of the extended family. Kay's cousins Billy and Ann alternate between resenting her advice and relying on her for the smallest tasks, and each chapter centers on one of these characters.
Finney moves effortlessly among their portrayals: Kay in the midst of a passionate affair, Billy as a bores his first two wives into leaving him, and Ann as she refuses to forgive the mother who abandoned her. FInney's characters are flawed and fascinating and though virtually all of their problems echo those of the previous generation-the sisters Opal, Garnet and Ruby, who grew up poor in Kansas and arrived in California with lovers, parents, and differing ambitions in tow-there is very little self-pity here, and a wealth of masterful storytelling.
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