Neena's mother, Freeda, disappeared on a cold February morning in 1984, leaving the fifteen-year-old Neena and her younger sister, Tish, in the care of Nan, their stern grandmother. Two decades later, Neena—no longer living in Philadelphia—supports herself by blackmailing married men. Returning to her childhood home when a sting goes terribly wrong, she avoids her grandmother while attempting to pull one last hustle on a prominent local lawyer. But discovering that Tish has been hospitalized with pregnancy complications forces Neena to come to terms with the woman who raised her and the truth about the woman who abandoned her. As Neena, Tish, and Nan reunite, each confronts her own memories of the past and dreams for the future.
McKinney-Whetstone weaves an intricate tapestry of love, pain and memory in her latest. Neena spends most of her adult life trying to track down her unstable, long-disappeared mother, Freeda, and funds her quest by blackmailing the married men she sleeps with. When a scam backfires in Chicago and Neena has to run for her life, she flees to hometown Philadelphia and discovers her sister, Tish, is in the hospital with a protracted pregnancy. Neena, not ready to face her grandmother Nan's rules and church-going ways, finds a flop and tries to keep her scam game going while revisiting the myriad disappointments and hurts caused by her mother's mental illness. But things get complicated when she meets Cliff, her latest mark. Meanwhile, Neena's friendship with street musician Bow Peep offers a chance at redemption, and Nan worries over her grandchildren and thinks back on Freeda's unstable father. Philly is as much a character as the women, and if all the picking at old wounds grows tiresome and predictable, Neena's dire straits are nicely handled and provide a pretty sharp hook.