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Australian triplets Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle are about to turn thirty-three and one is pregnant, one has just had her life turned upside down, and one is only just keeping hers from skidding off the fast lane. Meanwhile, their divorced parents have been behaving very oddly indeed.
In this family comedy by Liane Moriarty, we follow the three Kettle sisters through their tumultuous thirty-third year -- as they deal with sibling rivalry and secrets, revelations and relationships, unfaithful husbands and unthinkable decisions, and the fabulous, frustrating life of forever being part of a trio.
384 pages; ISBN 9780061856914
You could argue that it started thirty-four years ago when
twenty-year-old Frank Kettle, a tall, fair, hyperactive ex-altar boy,
fell madly in lust with Maxine Leonard, a long-legged languid redhead
just a few days short of her nineteenth birthday.
He was pumping with fresh testosterone. She knew better but
did it anyway. In the backseat of Frank's dad's Holden. Twice. The
first time involved a lot of head-bumping and grunting and
breathless shifts of position, while Johnny O'Keefe bellowed at
them from the car radio. The second time was slower and gentler
and rather nice. Elvis soothingly suggested they love him tender.
In each case, however, the terrible result was the same. One of
Frank's exuberant little sperm cells slammed head-on with one of
Maxine's rather less thrilled eggs, interrupting what should have
been an uneventful journey to nonexistence.
Over the following days, while Maxine was chastely dating
more suitable boys and Frank was pursuing a curvy brunette, two
freshly fertilized eggs were busily bumping their way along Maxine's
fallopian tubes toward the haven of her horrified young
At the exact moment Maxine allowed the very suitable Charlie
Edwards to hold back her long red hair while she puffed out her cheeks and blew out nineteen candles, one egg fizzed with so
much friction it split right in two. The other single egg burrowed
its way comfortably in between the two new identical eggs.
Guests at Maxine's birthday party thought they'd never seen
her look so beautiful -- slender, glowing, almost incandescent!
Who could have guessed she'd been impregnated with some
Catholic boy's triplets?
Frank and Maxine were married, of course. In their wedding
photos, they both have the blank-eyed, sedated look of recent
Seven months later, their triplet daughters came kicking and
howling into the world. Maxine, who had never even held a baby
before, was presented with three; it was the most despair-filled
moment of her young life.
Well, that would be Gemma's preference for how it started.
Cat would argue that if she was going to begin with their conception,
then why not go back through their entire family tree? Why
not go back to the apes? Why not start with the Big Bang? I guess
I did really, Gemma would chortle, Mum and Dad's big bang. Oh
funn-y, Cat would say. Let's look at it logically, Lyn would interrupt.
Quite clearly, it started the night of the spaghetti.
And Lyn, quite naturally, would be right.
It was a Wednesday night six weeks before Christmas. A nothing
sort of night. An unassuming midweek night that should have
vanished from their memories by Friday. "What did we do
Wednesday?" "I don't know. Watch TV?"
That's what they were doing. They were eating spaghetti and
drinking red wine in front of the television. Cat was sitting crosslegged
on the floor, with her back up against the sofa, her plate
on her lap. Her husband, Dan, was sitting on the edge of the sofa,
hunched over his dinner on the coffee table. It was the way they
always ate dinner.
Dan had cooked the spaghetti, so it was hearty and bland. Cat was the more accomplished cook. Dan's approach to cooking was
somehow too functional. He stirred his ingredients like concrete
mix, one arm wrapped around the bowl, the other stirring the
gluggy mix so vigorously you could see his biceps working. "So
what? Gets the job done."
That Wednesday night Cat was feeling no specific emotion;
not especially happy, not especially sad. It was strange afterward,
remembering how she sat there, shoveling Dan's pasta into her
mouth, so foolishly trusting of her life. She wanted to yell back at
herself through time, Concentrate!
They were watching a show called Med School. It was a soap
about a group of very beautiful young medical students with
shiny white teeth and complex love lives. Each episode featured a
lot of blood and sex and anguish.
Cat and Dan shared a mild addiction to Med School. Whenever
the plot took a new twist, they responded with loud enthusiasm,
yelling at the television like children watching a pantomime:
"Bastard!" "Dump him!" "It's the wrong medication!"
This week Ellie (blond, cutesy, cropped T-shirt) was in a state.
She didn't know whether to tell her boyfriend, Pete (dark, brooding,
abnormal abs), about her drunken infidelity with a guest-starring
"Tell him, Ellie!" said Cat to the television. "Pete will forgive
you. He'll understand!"
The ad break came on, and a manic man in a yellow jacket
bounced around a department store pointing an incredulous finger
at the Christmas specials.
"I booked that health and beauty thing today," said Cat, using
Dan's knee as a lever to help her reach over him for the pepper.
"The woman had one of those gooey, spiritual voices. I felt like I
was getting a massage just making a booking."
For Christmas, she was giving her sisters (and herself) a weekend
away at a health retreat in the Blue Mountains. The three of
them would share an "exquisite experience" of "indulgent pampering." They would be wrapped in seaweed, dunked in mud, and
slathered in vitamin-enriched creams. It would be extremely
She was pleased with herself for thinking of it. "What a clever
idea!" everyone would say on Christmas Day. Lyn definitely needed
the stress relief. Gemma didn't need it but she'd be right into pretending
that she did. Cat herself wasn't especially stressed either,
but perhaps she was, because she wasn't pregnant and she'd been
off the Pill now for nearly a year. "Don't get stressed about it,"
everybody said wisely, as if they were the first to pass on that hot
little tip. Apparently, the moment your ovaries noticed you were
worried about becoming pregnant, they refused to cooperate. Oh
well, if you're going to get all huffy about it, we'll just close down ...