With her trademark wit and empathy, Schine pens another hilarious and affecting domestic comedy, using the ageless bones of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" as a template.
The story opens with 78-year-old Joseph Weissmann announcing to his wife of 48 years, Betty, that he wants a divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. "The name of Joe's irreconcilable difference was Felicity, although Betty referred to her, pretending she could not remember the correct name, sometimes as Pleurisy, more often as Duplicity."
Theirs has been a traditional marriage, but Joe assures Betty he wants to be generous.
"Generous? she thought. It was as if she were the maid and she was being fired. Would he offer her two months' salary?
`You cannot be generous with what is mine,' she said.
And the divorce, like horses in a muddy race, their sides frothing, was off and running."
It so happens that Betty's grown daughters, mercurial Miranda, 49, and practical, bookish Annie, a couple years older, are at a crisis point in their lives too. Miranda's business - agent to confessional memoir writers - is going down the tubes as her authors are revealed to be fakes and liars, and Annie is facing a lonely empty nest as her sons grow up and away.
When Betty is maneuvered out of the Central Park West apartment, her daughters move with her to a dilapidated cottage in Westport, owned by a generous sort-of cousin to whom the whole world is "family." Miranda and Annie are furious with Josie, as they call their stepfather - the only father they have ever known. Tinged with heartbreak, their anger is all the more volatile.
Strapped for cash and unfamiliar with the concept, Miranda and Betty resort to charge cards while Annie struggles to make ends meet for all of them. At first it appears this family experiment is doomed but Cousin Lou keeps them busy and unsuitable romance soon beckons.
Heartbreak, hope, disappointment, catharsis and small epiphanies ensue as the three women bond, irritate and worry about one another. Readers will identify with all of them.
Schine brings an upper middle-class New York Jewish family and its milieu to Austen-esque life, while exploring various kinds of love (Miranda's bond with a small child is visceral), and satirizing the preoccupations and poses of modern life.
A thoroughly delightful novel from the author of such gems as 'Rameau's Niece' (my personal favorite), 'The Love Letter' and 'The New Yorkers.'
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About the reviewer
Lynn Harnett (Lynn_Harnett)
I love to read, always have, and have been writing reviews for more years than I care to say. Early on, i realized there are more books than there is time to read, so I read only books I like and mostly … more
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