Oh my gosh, it's been so long since I read this that I don't even know who is on the covers? Definitely Bitsy, probably Susan. Maybe the boy is Keith Drayton, Alcie's brother in law. I must get to writing these recaps sooner. I am definitely losing the narrative thread!
So this is a big slice of Susan going to the Orient with her dad because she will never have a life of her own and Bitsy wanting to be as wonderful as Susan, but also being lonely.
There are two suitors for Susan - the aforementioned Keith and the wretched Bobby. I'm about 5 books ahead now and I have to say that I have forgiven Bobby for most of his wretched youth.
So Keith is crazy about Susan, but respectful and patient. Bobby wants what he wants when he wants it and he even pressures Bitsy into spying on Susan for him. And he finagles his way into a tour with some big muckety-muck so that he will be near Susan and her father on their trip.
While Susan is gone, Bitsy takes over her bookstore job and really jazzes the place up. Keith becomes a confidante to her and she ends up learning to make friends with some of the girls from school. She is lovely, but her personality has been going through an awkward phase. She gets up the gumption to invite a classmate, Anne, over for a visit over the weekend. Vance, Bitsy's otherwise wretched brother, is charmed.
Speaking of charm, Bitsy tells Mrs. Jeffers, the bookshop owner, that her store lacks it and offers to update it. It takes some doing, but Jeffers eventually comes around.
One interesting tidbit is Anne's back story, "I'm an only child...My mother's been quite sick, so I had to come to boarding school. She's in a sanitarium. Being mentally ill is just like having any other kind of sickness, you know." This seems very forward thinking for 1960.
Bitsy invites Anne to Alcie and Jonathan's for Thanksgiving and Anne teaches her to dance. Keith is there as well and they have a nice conversation.
Then we switch to Susan and her ship is coming it, and she dreads the fact that Bobby will probably be there. She meets a nice new grandma who is coming to Japan to meet her son's Japanese wife and their new baby. There is a bit of Lambertian propaganda about accepting this mixed marriage which is frankly, lovely.
But then Bobby shows up and spoils the mood. He has bought pearls for Susan which is quite the wrong move, and frankly, way too thirsty. She declines the gift. He takes her to a geisha house for sukiyaki and there is a lot of Bobby being microagressive.
Then we are back to Bitsy and the bookstore's grand re-opening where Vance is slightly less of a jerk and kind of saves the day. Keith shows up and starts calling BItsy Doll and it is creepy in a Bobby-like way.
Then we whiplash back to Susan and her father is very ill in Hong Kong. Bobby steps in and helps out and begins his much needed redemption. There is also another bit of propaganda about how Communism feeds on hunger and how Americans have to educate and feed the poor people in third world countries to help their standard of living rise to keep them from becoming reds. He talks the General into going home where he can recover properly.
Bitsy finds out they will be home for Christmas and she is trying to hold everything together at home and deal with Susan's boyfriend drama with Keith. She's a busy little beaver. Ellen starts calling her "lovey" which she adores because it puts her on par with Susan.
On the trip home, Susan and Bobby have a come to Jesus moment where she confesses she finally loves him back, but she hates the idea of being an Army wife, but she will hitch her star to his wagon nonetheless. And then he says he will quit the army and go into business for her because he pretty much sucks at the army.
Bitsy spends the last chapter feeling bad for Keith, but recognizing that she is a bit player in that bigger story. Then there's some weird stuff with naming stars and blowing kisses and it ends.
This wasn't one of my favorites, although I liked Lamberts little bits of social commentary and I found the travel parts interesting. And I liked Bitsy's growth arc. Okay, maybe I did like it after all!