By Daphne Abeel
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
Carol Edgarian’s first novel, Rise the Euphrates, dealt with three generations of Armenian-American women. Her second work of fiction is planted firmly in middle-class, American San Francisco, with side trips to Boston and Cambridge, and there is only the slightest trace of Armenian influence in this novel.
There’s faint echo here of Tolstoy’s famous opening sentence to his novel, Anna Karenina. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Edgarian begins her story with the assertion, “The modern marriage has two states, plateau and precipice….” But here it must be said, the comparison between Tolstoy and Edgarian ends.
Set in the very recent present (references to President Obama and Hillary Clinton abound), this is the story of a couple, Lena (Helena) Rusch, and her husband, Dr. Charles Pepper, a surgeon-turned- entrepreneur who is developing a hot robotic technique that will permit long-distance surgery. The Peppers, both in their 40s, are parents of a son, 4-year-old Theo, and a surviving daughter, Willa, who would have been an identical twin if her sister had not died at birth. Willa is afflicted with breathing problems and requires special care.
The family is under considerable stress as Charlie has abandoned his career as a doctor to work on his robotic invention, which needs serious funding. Lena, formerly a television producer for PBS, has accepted that she must stay home to care for her ailing daughter.