AN ORGANIZED PANIC sets sister against brother, born secular humanist against later-in-life evangelical Christian. The sibling squabble underscores a serious struggle, certainly, but this is another tale told in the darkly humorous Friedmann voice–and set in the New Orleans only a native would know. The manuscript took second place in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in late 2012 and could be her best story telling yet. Friedman will challenge you to think about our own belief system as she “….opens our conversation on the sympathetic athiest narrator.”
Ronald Price runs a lucrative crime-scene cleaning operation called JesusCleanup. His sister, narrator Cesca Price, is baffled: they grew up in a thoroughly secular household. When Cesca and her mother Trisha have Thanksgiving dinner at Ronald’s house, a meal marked by praises to Jesus and recipes loaded with sodium from canned soups, mother Trisha has a stroke, and Cesca embarks on struggles with her brother. Cesca is a painter of national repute, and in the coming weeks she has to juggle responsibility for her mother, a coming show at the Getty, and an interview with PBS host Tevor Souriante —plus a nascent friendship with her mother’s doctor Michael Rosenthal. When Trisha dies, Ronald wants to use his half of the estate to buy a huge empty church to start a ministry. Is Ronald a charlatan, which means he is a crook but at least a man of reason—or is he a good Christian but no longer the man of reason who grew up with Cesca? Either way, she says no. So Ronald sues her—unsuccessfully—to remove her as executrix. Two days later she does her interview with Tevor Souriante, still fuming about her brother, not knowing the camera is rolling. Bolstered by her romance with Michael, Cesca finally realizes that Ronald prizes money above all else. In the end, Ronald and Cesca will have to face each other down in court, and each will have to try to prove the other is not above board. Has Cesca libeled Ronald and ruined his livelihood and thus owes him millions? Or is Cesca right, that he dupes innocent people, and it’s okay to make it public? That resolved, what will the Price family be without Trisha?