The Test
by Patricia Gussin

Oceanview Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-933-51519-9.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 10/26/2009

Fiction: Mainstream

Families are complex; large families are very complex. Rich families have problems just like all families—sometime even more. In The Test Patricia Gussin traces out the complicated year of the super-rich and super-complicated Parnell clan.

When Paul Parnell, the family patriarch, dies he leaves an estate of nearly two billion dollars. The fortune does not go in nice bundles to each of the six children or the various grandchildren. Twice-married Parnell sets up a trust and, through his attorney and estate executor Carl Shiller, informs the gathered family that they will be individually tested. At the end of the coming year, 2001, they will each be evaluated to see if the have earned their inheritance. There is a letter for each with suggestions about his or her individual issues, but all stress religion, family, community, and profession. No one is happy.

The six children don't know each other well. Parnell married twice. The oldest children, two sons, were leaving the nest just as the new wife and her daughter, whom Parnell considered his own, arrived on the scene. Then there's the glamorous, sexy Monica Monroe whose mother put her up for adoption following a dalliance with Parnell. Now Parnell wants her back in the family. The year begins and so does the drama.

Gussin includes a family tree in the front of the book. It's helpful because it's hard to keep up with the Senator from Pennsylvania, the reclusive tree-grower in Florida, the super model, the freshly minted doctor, the rock star, and the ailing mother of eight. That's just the kids; there's another generation coming along and they get in on the act.

Gussin does a skillful job of juggling the stories and describing the year as George W. Bush begins his presidency and the world slides toward September 11, a pivotal day in the story.

At year's end, each life has been changed and a few have ended. The family has new understanding, attitudes and a whole lot of money.

This is a story of how-the-other-half-lives—with private jets, multiple homes and unlimited budgets. The Test is fun, fast and paints a good picture of the times.

Patricia Gussin has written two earlier books, Twisted Justice and Shadow of Death. She and her husband divide their time between Longboat Key, Florida, East Hampton, New York, and their vineyards in Marlborough, New Zealand. Patricia is a member of International Thriller Writers Association, Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Learn more about her on her website.

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