Pete Flowers is facing forty. A shrewdly successful entrepreneur, a long-distance runner who can still turn heads, Pete leads a comfortable, private life. His last relationship, with a witty and impetuous man, ended a couple of years ago, but they continue to see each other as friends - linked by a strong sense of family. Pete's fear of intimacy, combined with the long shadow of AIDS, has kept him cautious, frustrated, and alone. When Pete's mother, the lively and strong-willed matriarch of a well-to-do Philadelphia clan, is diagnosed with cancer, her illness becomes the catalyst for Pete and his siblings to face their own demons. Bea and Mary Alice - two sisters as different as beer and champagne - struggle to understand how a woman as sophisticated and unrelenting as their mother would neglect her own health. Stu, Pete's successful stockbroker brother with an insensitive wife and a secret that could put him behind bars, chooses withdrawal. Phil - successful businessman, aloof father, and loving husband - is neither certain of his own future nor confident in his role in this adult family. And Pete, desperate to transcend his isolation but afraid to take the risk, becomes the focus of his mother's mission to close the gaps in the family, while there's still time.
Oliver's first novel tells the story of a not-so-young man who has to come to grips with - take a guess - mortality, as it invades his life through his mother's fight with cancer and his own fear of AIDS. Pete Flowers is a rather staid Philadelphia florist whose homosexuality is the only thing that sets him apart from his prodigiously conventional Main Line family. (Actually, there's also his wardrobe: Pete likes to dress well, and we hear a lot about layering and color-coordination when he's on the scene.) Pete's dad runs a big company that none of the children wants to take over; Pete's mom has breast cancer and becomes incoherent now and then. His sisters and brothers and in-laws are into all kinds of stuff. Everyone makes a lot of money and enjoys good restaurants and talks about sex and how they really ought to have it more often. There's so little time, see? Here's Pete on the cusp of 40, and he hasn't even conic out to his mom yet - and she could die any minute now, or lose her marbles for good. Plus there's the AIDS thing: Pete's been pretty careful lately, but you never can tell - and wouldn't it be awful. But he can't work up the nerve to get tested. Eventually Pete's old boyfriend - very hot, and absolutely loaded - drops in and helps him sort things out. He breaks the news to mom and dad (they knew!), decides to join the family firm (it's what he's always wanted to do, apparently), and, at story's close, goes off for his test. We never learn the results, but at least Pete has figured out the important thing - to be true to himself and look life (and death) straight in the eye. He'll manage fine. Utterly moronic, and very likely to succeed. (Kirkus Reviews)