Aug 05, 09
Read in August, 2007
I think Quindlen is an amazing writer. I love her short essays for NEWSWEEK, & I've loved all of her novels. And I really shouldn't have liked this one. It's a book about New York City (very consciously so--the first sentence is: "From time to time some stanger will ask me how I can bear to live in New York City"--and that notion is repeated in various forms throughout the book), and it's in some ways a book of manners, like the 19th-century English novels I don't like. Furthermore, it's very much about the contemporary obsessions of academia--race, class, and gender--and about nontraditional families. BUT her characters & their emotions are so richly portrayed & so real that she breaks down the abstractions of the categories and in so doing illuminates them. (That's what makes her essays so good, too.) This one's about two adult sisters, in their 40s. One is America's best-known morning talk show anchor; the other runs a shelter for (mostly African American) women in the Bronx. When the "successful" one faces a career crisis, it affects her relationships with her sister, her husband, her college-age son, & her friends, and we, as readers, are witness to all the fascinating ramifications. Another Quindlen miracle.