Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Family Man

Goodness, I just mentioned my friend Jane and her prowess at book recommendations and she's gone and done it again with Elinor Lipman's The Family Man! I love Elinor Lipman and have done since reading her very first novel, Then She Found Me, way back in 1990. Then, a few novels later, she went off the rails and we went our separate ways, during which time she wrote this little gem, which has endeared her to me all over again.

Aren't good books such a double-edged sword? On the one hand, how marvellous to find a book so great that the world simply drops away while you immerse yourself completely in it. On the other hand, it means that you speed-read your way through and are done in two days, and are left missing the characters and the world you have been inhabiting with them, basically at the expense of all else! This is where I now find myself. Lipman creates such wonderful characters; they really are people you want to hang out with.

This book revolves around Henry and he's a treat — with a quiet life that's not destined to stay that way for long. His past becomes his present, and his future, in all manner of ways and it is an undeniable pleasure to be a spectator for all the events that follow. It's set in New York City and has the whole host of characters you'd expect. Lipman has filled them all with humanity and heart. When Henry, gay and lonely, is reunited with Thalia, his estranged step-daughter things certainly get interesting.

Lipman is a genius at witty, intelligent dialogue and her observation skills are second to none. She reminds me of Nora Ephron, but with a voice that is very much her own. She specializes in relationship studies and this one features those between Henry and his step-daughter, ex-wife, therapist, new boyfriend, his step-daughter's boyfriends…and all are beautifully painted. It is a perfectly executed and enjoyably uplifting tale and I am sad to say goodbye. I guess I will have to dig around to see if there's anything else I missed or just hope that she's working on something new. If I'm really lucky, it will be a sequel!

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