This third book in a series, featuring Hallie Palmer, now an art school sophomore, opens with a rowdy frat party
where old buddy Bernard shows up to announce that Hallieís dad has had a heart attack.
You can dive into this "night the world fell off its axis," without having read earlier books, but you might
complain about being thrown into deep water with this huge cast of zany characters, and later want to catch up.
Dad, only 39, dies, and mom goes to a rest home, AKA loony-bin, leaving Hallie to cope with eight siblings.
Sexism surfaces when it is taken for granted that her older brother, Eric, with his football scholarship, expected
to bring income into their dire financial situation, must stay in college. Hallie, envisioning her doomed future,
howls, "Would a brother be expected to completely change his life in order to help care for younger siblings?"
Pedersen captures the laughter, tears and growing pains of the situation. Hallie has little time for self-pity
with all those kids: Louise, 15, not "exactly a huge help to begin with," who runs off to her boyfriend in Boston;
Teddy, who takes on the task of "revitalizing mom" ; Davy, Darlene, accident prone Francie, Lillian; and the infant
twins who nobody can tell apart except their incommunicado mother, creating constant chaos.
On top of the family drama, there are all those quirky characters, trying to be helpful: gay friends, Bernard
and Gil; Bernard's mother, Olivia, whose Greek boyfriend is half her age; crystal guru, June; absent-minded Aunt
Lala; assorted church ladies; Pastor Costello; Police Officer Rich; and Hallieís boyfriend Craig; Uncle Lenny, who
first appears sinister, but turns out to be a life-saver; poker pals like Cappy, whose idea of a motivational story
is: "Two frogs fell into a pitcher of milk and it was too slippery to climb out. The first gave up and drowned.
But the second one had gumption, and he kicked until eventually the cream turned to butter and he climbed out."
Itís a Mad-Hatter-tea-party as Hallie, overwhelmed by cooking, cleaning, diapers, bottles, spit-up, bathing,
laundry, money crises, bursting pipes, and injuries endures the ordeal for one full year to reach the sweetly