“The End of the Day” by Bill Clegg; Scout Press (320 pages, $27)
Bill Clegg understands people. That might seem to be a minimum requirement for a novelist, but Clegg packs his follow-up to the spellbinding “Did You Ever Have a Family” with keen, inventively observed insights — how, for instance, a woman who meets her former bestie after many years feels like a Revolutionary War re-enactor of the friendship, aping its patterns without its intimacy or ease.
Those former friends are wealthy, remote Dana and cryptic, widowed Jackie. Chapters from their viewpoints alternate with those devoted to journalist Hap and cabdriver Lupita, who used to be Dana’s servant but has severed all ties to her former life. All four characters linger on the past, which sometimes gets Clegg into trouble.
As he gradually reveals the incident that connects them, he introduces too many subsidiary characters and a complicated non-chronology that requires him to spend a lot of time getting us up to speed.
Fortunately, everything comes together for a bittersweet finale in which the characters finally reckon with the fact that the past is not finished with them.