"...brings to life the rambunctious Montez O'Brien family. The father, Nelson O'Brien, is an enterprising Irish immigrant who travels to Cuba as a photographer during the Spanish-American War in 1898, and there he meets his future wife, the sensitive, aristocratic, poetic Mariela Montez. As they are enroute to America in 1902, their first daughter, Margarita, whose reminiscences inform much of this novel's narrative, is born at sea. The Montez O'Briens settle in a small Pennsylvania town, where Nelson practices his photography trade and runs the Jewel Box Movie Theater, and Mariela gives birth to thirteen more daughters and then, finally, a son.
"As Margarita looks back on her long and full life, the novel recounts the lives, loves, and tragedies of the Montez O'Briens and their always complex relations with one another. It also follows Emilio through his days in Greenwich Village, the army, and Hollywood, where, as Monty O'Brien, he stars in grade-B detective and Tarzan movies and pals around with screen idols like Errol Flynn. Never altogether at peace in the overwhelming feminine world of his family, he searches restlessly for an elusive true love. And after an unhappy early marriage, Margarita herself finds the deepest passion of her life in extreme old age."