Cover image for The Crossley baby
The Crossley baby
Publication Information:
New York : Ballentine Books, c2003.
Physical Description:
287 p.
Geographic Term:
Two sisters--Jean, an ambitious corporate headhunter, and Sunny, a family-oriented wife and mother--feud over who will adopt the baby of their unexpectedly deceased older sister, in a novel in 1980s New York City.


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Bridget, Jean, and Sunny Crossley grow up in modest circumstances on Long Island, and all end up in the New York City of the 1980s. Free spirit Bridget, the oldest, is a well-traveled, sometime massage therapist in the East Village. Outspoken Jean is a corporate headhunter in double-breasted power suits who lives in a gleaming Upper East Side tower. Harvard-educated Sunny, the youngest and sweetest sister, drifts from eligible boyfriend to eligible boyfriend until she falls for a Harlem real estate developer and starts a family. When Bridget dies unexpectedly during what should have been a routine operation, she leaves behind a ten-month-old girl named Jade. The big question becomes: Who should take the baby? The obvious and expert Sunny, or the never-at-home career woman Jean? The answer is, of course, more complicated than either sister could have anticipated. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

The unexpected death of Bridget Crossley-the single mother of the eponymous baby-is the event that kicks this wry, quirky novel by Carey (Good Gossip) into gear. Make that low gear: narrative drive is not the author's strong suit. Opening in New York City in 1990, the story hinges on which of Bridget's two younger sisters will care for 10-month-old Jade: the childless, ambitious and rich Jean or the aptly named suburban mother, Sunny? Jean wants her, but Sunny thinks herself more suitable. Their battle is complicated by Jade's expected inheritance, the millions she should receive as a result of the malpractice suit over her mother's death. But Carey is more interested in character than plot: well over a third of the book is devoted to the backstories of the trio, who grew up on Long Island, raised mainly by their widowed father. As adults, the three sisters embody the range of choices for women of their generation: massage therapist Bridget is an East Village bohemian, Jean is haute yuppie, and Sunny went to Harvard but chose to become a stay-at-home mom. Yet the women are hardly typical or predictable. If the book is a little too cluttered with interior monologues, Carey is nonetheless an engaging and often funny writer ("Theirs had been a typical seventies family: one barely functioning parent, slouching teenagers picking at one another, bongs, an Irish setter missing a leg, bell-bottoms in odd rusty shades like a color TV gone bad"). Her sharp descriptions of the sisters' various milieus give the novel its piquancy. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Having a baby changes everything. But when you're congenitally competitive sisters, like Jean and Sunny Crossley, each vying for the right to raise their deceased sister's daughter, the more things change, the more they stay the same. A free-spirited single mom, Bridget dies during a routine operation, leaving custody of baby Jade in question. As a hotshot headhunter married more to her career than to her husband, Jean is childless by choice, but when Jade is orphaned, Jean surprises everyone by filing for adoption and surprises no one by simultaneously filing a malpractice suit. Meanwhile, Sunny, an overachieving soccer mom with two kids of her own, stays true to her nature, blithely assuming that Jade will live with her. The ensuing custody battle pits sister against sister, which for these two is nothing new. Whether the arena is home or office, Carey's portrait of modern "superwomen" is both poignant and precise. From caustic cynicism to subtle sarcasm, Carey's wit radiates throughout this contemporary comedic saga of sibling rivalry run amok. Carol Haggas

Kirkus Review

From storywriter (Good Gossip, 1991) and novelist (The Other Family, 1996, etc.) Carey: a tale about three suburban sisters on very different paths, and the responses of the others when one dies. Their mother dead, the Crossley girls--Bridget, Jean, and Sunny--grew up in a working-class Long Island town with barely-present accountant father Ed. Though of completely different natures, the girls laugh off stories of family feuds, getting along well enough until oblique, unconventional, single-mother Bridget, the oldest, dies in a botched operation. Sunny, the youngest, pretty and popular, floats through a benevolent world until she finds and marries Leon, an idealistic slumlord. Now the mother of two, Sunny is the perfect middle-class Earth Mother and assumes that Jade will join her family. Jean--a pragmatic, cynical, dynamic businesswoman--surprises all when latent maternal instinct and competitiveness lead her to hold onto the baby after Bridget's wake, and the sisters are soon vying to adopt her. While the emotional landscape never really changes--Jean sees relationships as business negotiations with winners and losers, and she will not be the loser; Sunny's nature compels her to do what she feels is right, which Jean sees as manipulative and sentimental posturing--economics supply plot complications. Jean is suing the hospital for wrongful death on Jade's behalf, but her biggest client asks her to back off. Sunny, who makes the case in family court that Jade would do better with a stay-at-home mom, is forced by the collapse of Leon's real estate business to get a job. The new circumstances bring the sisters to an uneasy truce, the feud bridged by their mutual love for Jade. Accomplished and insightful, but oddly disjointed; showing her strengths as a storywriter rather than a novelist, Carey makes each segment engaging, but with little forward motion. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

When Bridget dies during routine surgery, she leaves behind a baby named Jade whom her two younger sisters vie to adopt. (The free-spirited Bridget has never bothered to reveal the identity of Jade's father to her family.) Jade then disappears from the narrative for over 130 pages while Carey carefully examines the sometimes distressing and often complicated lives of her mother and aunts. Jean, the middle sister, is a wealthy, buttoned-down corporate headhunter. Sunny, the youngest, is a stay-at-home mother of two, married to an idealistic, self-described slumlord. Readers have complete access to the thoughts and feelings of both sisters, who are fully imagined. Bridget, of course, is less so; we only see her through the eyes of others, to whom she was always somewhat of an enigma. While not shallow beach reading, this book can easily be read in one sitting. The often witty writing is clear and unpretentious, and love and money-those eternal subjects of fiction-are examined from a variety of viewpoints; things are seldom as simple as they seem. It is unfortunate that this book may have greater appeal to women, as it can be recommended for all readers.-Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Cork Line The feuds were such a joke. The Crossley girls had laughed about them for years. Once upon a time their father had mentioned certain "disputes" shamefacedly, but later even he joined in the merriment. It certainly didn't matter to these three free-thinking, dope-smoking, miniskirted girls that a quarrel between heirs had broken up the original "Crossley's," one of the biggest jewelry businesses in Boston. Early photos made it look like a ratty old cigar box, anyway. And the girls relished details of other fights: Two maiden aunts had had a brick wall built down the center of their Victorian house in Dorchester, the better to avoid each other; back in County Cork, one Crossley and his widowed sister hadn't spoken for the last twenty years of their lives, although they slept in the same cottage and sat across the kitchen table from each other three times a day. There was actually a line drawn down the center of the table. Can you imagine! When the two younger sisters, Jean and Sunny, shared a bedroom back in high school, Jean laid a strip of masking tape across the middle of the floorboards and called it the "Cork Line," as in "I don't care if you do open the window as long as the air doesn't venture over the Cork Line," or, about a guy Sunny had met at the Paw Valley Post Office, "Just keep Mr. Dick on your side of the Cork Line." "I could swear I heard something just then," Sunny would say, turning the pages of a magazine with ostentatious languor. "But such a screechy sound couldn't have been human." Even oddball Bridget, the oldest, picked up on the term. As an adult, Jean would occasionally mention the fact that Bridget's bedroom had not only been hers alone, but had also been the biggest in the house. Bridget was generally too distracted to notice, but once she said, "I have a Cork Line running down the center of my soul!" Jean snickered, but Sunny grabbed Bridget and hugged her and cooed at her and tickled her ribs until Jean finally said, "Yuck. Let's keep this PG," and Sunny said, "Oh, you just can't stand it that I'm so much nicer than you are." The call, when it came, was between Jean and Sunny. It took place on December 18, 1990, shortly after lunch. Sunny wasn't planning to answer the phone; she was trying to figure out which cardboard carton held the bulk of the Christmas ornaments. She could find only a few of the most fragile, which had their own four-inch-square boxes tucked in among the holiday books and tapes. This was going to be the first Christmas since Sunny and her family had left the city. Bridget, who was scheduled to have a fibroid removed, would be coming up with her ten-month-old daughter, Jade, in a couple of days to recuperate a little before the twenty-fifth, and Sunny wanted to have put up as many decorations as possible beforehand. It helped that Sunny's new house looked like an old Christmas tin: lit-up mullioned windows, a wreath on the door, a dusting of snow, an embrace of spruce. Because the rooms were still nearly bare of furniture, nothing commonplace interfered with the holiday setting. The pungent, sappy odor of evergreen drifted upstairs and down, thanks to the Scotch pine branches tacked over the arch to the dining room, the Doug fir Sunny's husband had cut on their own property, the basket of pinecones by the fireplace. That afternoon the kids were going to help decorate a gingerbread house she'd made from a kit. Three different sets of friends were expected up from the city around the day itself. Lists in her little loopy handwriting were scattered everywhere: Presents still to buy. Tips to be handed out. And lots of food. Ingredients for the marinade, ingredients for the pie crust, ingredients for the cookie dough. Eggnog, Burgundy, and a cheap champagne for the mimosas on Christmas morning. Already in a corner of the kitchen next to some stripped paneling (the house was a real fixer-upper) stood a large pile of holiday cakes and breads, olives and nuts, truffles and candy canes. The ornaments were key--so important that an obscure hierarchy had evolved over the years. If Linc, who was five, got to put on the shiny fabric fish Bridget had brought back from Beijing one year, then Ruth, who was almost four, got to hang the butterfly. If Linc got the gingerbread boy, Ruth got the girl. There were also more complicated equivalences. The nutcracker, for instance, equaled both the pipe-cleaner bear and either the red-and-green-striped metal sled or Leon's white menorah, a nod to his cultural past. Then there were those ornaments the kids left for Sunny, including the red and silver glass balls from an ancient Woolworth's and a small, lacy brass frame that Jean had given them. Inside was a picture of Jean herself, eating a sandwich. In the hierarchy of relatives, it was weirdo Bridget who was on the top. When the call came that December 18, the person at the other end claimed to be Sunny's sister Jean, but the voice sounded put-on. That is, Sunny could tell it was Jean, but Jean had the sort of strained tone she used to affect when she'd leave messages pretending to be a Hollywood agent or the president of the United States. It was as if Jean were calling up pretending to be Jean. Which was annoying, but odd enough that Sunny put down the manger scene she was unwrapping from its tissue paper and picked up the phone. "Jean?" she said, implying by the confusion in her voice that she hadn't just been deciding whether to answer. Jean said that something had gone wrong with Bridget's operation. "Someday, Jean, you are going to go too far," said Sunny. "I'm just telling you what happened," said Jean. Something on the back of Sunny's neck began to rise. "What was it?" she said. "They're being kind of cagey. But I think she's, well, dead." "There's obviously some mistake," Sunny said. "Really?" "Nothing could have gone wrong with the operation," said Sunny. "It was very routine. She was supposed to be home in a few hours." "Oh," said Jean. "I thought you knew something." "Just tell me how someone could have died of such a routine operation. Bridget's been all over the world. She stumbled into a civil war, and she was fine." "If you don't know anything . . ." "I suppose she could have been in a car accident on the way to the hospital," Sunny mused. "It's possible." There was a silence. "Did they get her confused with someone else?" said Sunny in a sudden panic. She heard the intercom squawk in Jean's office. Jean said, "Tell him I'll call him back." Sunny struggled to remain civil. "You're at work?" she said. "It's Tuesday. Of course I'm at work." Sunny could have cut Jean open on an operating table right then and there, but the image that accompanied this desire--an everyday, real-life figure superimposed on a Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory--made her double up, and she found herself crouching on her knees, her face six inches from a cracked black diamond in the kitchen floor. "I have to go," she said into the phone, and hit the hang-up button. Still doubled over, intently examining the gray curve of the receiver, she punched the memory button for her husband's office. "And how are you, Mrs. Dane?" said Brianna brightly. The receptionist. Sunny thought she'd been laid off. "Connect me, connect me," said Sunny. And to her husband she said, "Jean thinks something happened to Bridget." "Thinks?" "The operation," she said. "I'll be right there." The drive up from Harlem would take more than an hour. Sunny hit the second button, which was for Bridget. There was her voice on the announcement, the same as always. "Bridget!" cried Sunny. "Call me immediately! You won't believe what just happened!" One of the last few buttons was for Jean's office, but Sunny couldn't place which. She couldn't remember the last time she'd called her. Sunny hit the "9" and got a man's voice: "Poison Control. May I have the name of the child involved?" On the second try, she got a double hello, first from Jean's receptionist, then from Jean herself, who had a way of speaking sometimes--holding the words way back in her throat--that drove Sunny nuts. "Where did you hear this nonsense?" she asked. "The hospital called me," said Jean. "Where is Jade?" "She's with the upstairs neighbor. Stew." "I'm coming," said Sunny. "I'll pick her up. I'll call you back." She rested her forehead against the cool tile. "In a few minutes." If Jean was angry--and she was, actually; incredibly so--it was at Bridget for not letting her find her a real job. Because Jean could have done it; no one in her family appreciated what power she held. She had wooed an executive away from his firm by reading a bird book that cost her $11.95. She had filled a six-figure PR job one summer day without leaving the Adirondacks. She had herself led a team that ended up recommending the new CEO of OxCon--a position that, with stock options, commanded millions of dollars. She never pretended to be surprised at her success. She had a vision. She could find previously unimagined fits between positions and people because she never saw square pegs and round holes, or even round pegs and round holes. Every element was more complex, with odd juts and indentations, yet more elastic, more vibrant, more erotic. Bridget was not exactly at the level Jean was used to dealing with, but Jean knew lots of human resources people, had actually recommended many of them for their positions. She could have gotten Bridget anything she wanted. This despite the fact that Bridget had been without steady employment for years, despite her obvious unsuitableness for any sort of normal life. And a real job would have meant a real apartment in a real neighborhood, real day care for Jade, and, most of all, a real hospital with real doctors to take care of them both. Bridget hadn't graduated from college? She'd been in a hurry to grasp life with two fists. She'd wandered aimlessly all over the world? People who travel are more effective communicators. Her previous jobs were hard to verify? That just shows she was a real self-starter. In truth, Jean had always thought of Bridget as a person you could work around, and certainly there was use in that. Even in high school, Jean had been able to predict the general shape of their careers. She'd often told her sisters she would end up supporting them. Their father may be struggling; their mother may be dead. But Jean had decided to be rich. "Just try not to get caught when I am competing for some particularly sensitive post," she added at one point during the Watergate hearings. "Caught?" said Bridget, perplexed. "Caught doing what?" "I have no idea," said Jean, "and don't tell me. It's safer that way." Jean swept into the pale blue reception room and announced to Mary, the beautiful Vietnamese receptionist, "My sister's doctor just killed her. Who do we have on board for today? Cancel them all. Tell them the economy will only improve." "Did something happen to Sunny?" Every part of Mary looked polished. Her straight black hair shone, her crimson nails gleamed, her sharp-collared, crisp white synthetic shirt was almost too stylish. There was no reason for her to be impressed by anyone. "No. Bridget," said Jean abruptly. Mary had never met Sunny but was always telling Jean to say hello. Of course, Sunny had asked Mary all sorts of how-are-you questions, but they were bound to be fake; no one was that interested in someone else's receptionist. Mary never mentioned Bridget, who had actually been in this office, in this very room. Maybe not often. But once. And she was hard to miss. At forty-two she was still "finding herself." After quitting a job with the city, she'd turned to more marginal employment--part-time waitress at a vegan restaurant, costume jeweler, occasional seamstress for experimental theater directors, New Age masseuse. "I'm so sorry," said Mary. "You have nothing to worry about," said Jean grimly. "But somebody else does." The last time Jean had gone to Bridget's apartment on 7th Street was years before, not a memory she liked to relive. The only person who hadn't asked her for money on the way was a young fellow in jeans and a priest's collar, who had tried to give her clean needles out of the back of a brown van. It was terrifically embarrassing. "I'm just visiting my sister" sounded like every stupid lie she had ever told. What would she, an obviously successful person getting out of a company cab, be doing with a sister down there? Even Bridget herself wasn't a junkie, although it was hard to think of any other excuse for her continuing embrace of poverty. The priest had tried to warn Jean about HIV as if she'd never watched any television. She had never gone back. In fact, Jean hadn't seen Bridget for months, and the last time they'd met it was by accident, on the Lexington Avenue bus. Jade had been hanging off Bridget's chest in one of those rampant Dresden blue pouches, definitely a Sunny hand-me-down. Where had they been heading to? Had Bridget even said? Jean tried to reconstruct the conversation. Bridget had no small talk. Sports, politics, the weather--no normal subject would do for Bridget. When Jean had asked after the baby, Bridget had replied by looking down at the top of the little head with its funny swirl of hair and saying, "Russians still think that cold air makes you sick." She had always spoken in irrelevancies. Jean may have tried to bring up Sunny, although Bridget tended to willfully misunderstand Jean's devastating remarks about Sunny's dependence on men and her move to the suburbs--both topics she should have warmed to. Ah, another memory returned. Bridget had been stylishly, if cheaply, dressed in short squarish metallic-looking bell-bottoms and a zigzagged knit jersey top--the same sorts of clothes that she'd left all over her floor twenty-five years ago. From the straw basket she was using as a diaper bag she took a silver plastic clutch purse (empty, no doubt). A single black vinyl daisy protruded over the snap. While the doors pumped and hissed, she waved this purse as if to toss it away but instead said, "Recognize this?" "Isn't that mine?" asked Jean. Bridget laughed. "I found it in the attic," she said, meaning at their father's house out in Paw Valley. It was as if she had circled all the way around to the beginning of her life just in time to end it. Excerpted from The Crossley Baby by Jacqueline Carey All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.