Beach reading with brains and bite from Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist of manners Lurie (Foreign Affairs, 1984; Women and...



Beach reading with brains and bite from Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist of manners Lurie (Foreign Affairs, 1984; Women and Ghosts, 1994, etc.). For 25 years, Jenny Walker has been a contented helpmeet to her famous husband Wilkie. She has done the research, typed drafts, and corrected the grammar for the nature books that have made his reputation, and she's dealt with the mundane details of everyday life she considers him too important to bother with. Now, at 46, she finds her 71-year-old spouse distracted, remote, uninterested even in his work in progress. Wilkie, we learn, thinks he has cancer and considers himself a has-been: What will his helpless wife do when he's gone? Before that's a problem, Jenny, with her customary tact, suggests a sojourn in Key West, presenting it as a way for her to get away from the New England winter rather than as a respite for Wilkie. In the steamy, unfettered atmosphere of America's last resort, she makes friends with a crew of free spirits--most notably HIV-positive gardener Jacko and lesbian proprietor of a women-only guesthouse Lee-while Wilkie's plots his suicide and is stymied in three mordantly comic episodes. The plot thickens with Jenny's increasingly warm feelings for Lee and with the arrivals of Jacko's downtrodden cousin Barbie and her overbearing, right-wing Republican mother Myra. As usual, Lurie observes with precision and humor everything from the economics of retirement homes to trendy restaurants and waiters who announce themselves by name. Her characters stumble toward new beginnings with appealingly human hesitancy: Even the elderly widowed artist who voices Lurie's most autumnal musings seems poised for renewal in the good-natured finale. The dreadful Myra finally asserts her own political ambitions and temporarily ceases trying to manage everyone else's lives; and Jenny draws strength from her love for Lee to nourish her ongoing but evolving commitment to Wilkie. No great revelations, but a strong story from a sharp observer of the American social scene.

Pub Date: July 1, 1998


Page Count: 321

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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