Fairy tales, Rachel begins, are nonsense—nobody ever talks about what happens after the “happily ever after.” For a time, Rachel was a diplomat’s wife—taken care of, well dressed, etc. At first Rachel enjoyed this new marriage, but eventually she grew bored and sad. Then she learned that her husband was cheating on her with a mistress, for whom he left Rachel. Rachel is now on her third husband—an older man named Remy Fairley. Remy is kind and devoted to Rachel. He then dies abruptly and leaves Rachel the Equatorial, a hotel for businessmen.
Rachel is now a grown woman, and a surprisingly cynical, experienced one. For all her superficiality, she’s seen plenty of the world: she’s been married three times, seen her family members die, and more. And yet Rachel’s takeaway seems to be that survival is the only morality: she feels little to no guilt at having abandoned her husbands so quickly, nor does she seem to love really Remy, although he loves her.
Rachel is now the owner and runner of the Equatorial hotel. She takes pride in remodeling and organizing the building, particularly the spectacular pool that attracts visitors from far away. But Rachel sometimes thinks about her sisters. They never visit her, even though some (Leah) aren’t very far away at all. She imagines her sisters surveying her hotel. Leah would compliment her hospitality, while Adah would drolly compliment her “personal hygiene.” Rachel tells herself that Leah and Adah have avoided her because they don’t want to admit that Rachel has finally become a capable woman.
It’s pretty obvious that Rachel is still desperate for validation from her family. Here, Rachel wants her sisters to praise her ingenuity—in essence, to admit that Rachel turned out to be pretty bright and successful after all. While this is partly true—running a hotel is more than most people ever accomplish, and is especially admirable for a woman growing up in such a sexist environment as Rachel—her success seems to have brought her little happiness.