June 22, 2009

BOOKS: The Family Man, Elinor Lipman (2009)

I'm always happy when a new Lipman novel hits the bookstores. I think she's one of our funniest novelists, with a great character for creating vivid characters and putting them in realistically comic situations.

Our hero this time around is Henry, a middle-aged gay Manhattanite who suddenly finds himself reunited with Thalia, his stepdaughter from a long-ago marriage. Thalia was only three or four when Henry was married to her mother, and they haven't kept in touch over the intervening twenty-five years, but both are delighted to have reconnected.

Henry has, to a large extent, withdrawn from the world; he's mostly retired, and doesn't date or socialize much. Thalia's social life is far more complicated; she's a would-be actress, currently posing as the girlfriend of a would-be horror movie mogul who needs to be seen with a hot girl on his arm.

It all sounds like the setup for some insufferably broad slapsticky comedy, but Lipman's characters are so well rounded that their every word, every decision, every gesture feels real. I had been mildly disappointed in Lipman's last two novels, but this is a return to top form. Highly recommended.

No comments: