THE FAMILY MAN, Elinor Lipman.
The flap copy:
A hysterical phone call from his ex-wife and a familiar face in a photograph upend Henry Archer’s well-ordered life. They bring him back into contact with the child he adored, a short-term stepdaughter from a misbegotten marriage long ago. Henry is a lawyer, an old-fashioned man, gay, successful, lonely. Thalia is now twenty-nine, an actress-hopeful, estranged from her newly widowed crackpot mother— Denise, Henry’s ex. Hoping it will lead to better things for her career, Thalia agrees to pose as the girlfriend of a former sitcom star and current horror-movie luminary who is down on his romantic luck. When Thalia and her complicated social life move into the basement of Henry’s Upper West Side townhouse, she finds a champion in her long-lost father, and he finds new life—and maybe even new love—in the commotion.
I keep reading reading reviews that say how easy and effortless Ms. Lipman makes it look and all I can think is...that must be bloody hard! There's so much restraint there, in the consistency of the wit, never straining, never becoming cloying or going over the top. I think how hard comedy is too, especially comedy like this that doesn't rely on the easy prop of cruelty. Lipman, like Atwood and Austen, is an arch mistress of her domain, but unlike Atwood and to a certain extent Austen, she never descends into easy superiority. On the contrary, she's very kind to all these people she's created, even the frequently awful Denise. As soon as I finished the book, all I could think of was, 'Why can't *I* be a fiftysomething gay man with an amazing stepdaughter I need to be reunited with?' I'm also thinking how often books are billed as humorous and how rarely that's true. This time it is.
How about you? Read anything wonderful lately?
Be well. Don't forget to write.