A week of soul-searching and lovemaking among Yale alumni in New York.
"Tate, meet my mother and father, Bitsy and Thatcher. Mom and Dad, this is Tate Pennington." Still recovering from a recently broken engagement, Smith Anderson has brought her new boyfriend home for Thanksgiving at her parents' estate in the Hamptons, a spread that includes a helipad, twin tennis courts, and a bakery. With characters whose names are straight out of The Official Preppy Handbook; a cast that includes a life coach, a personal organizer, a bird-watching guide, and a guy who made millions on an app called PhotoPoet; two couples in the precarious process of finding love; and a big family wedding involving all of them on deck, Rowley's debut novel seems set to be a comedy of manners among the fancier young New Yorkers. But it's quite serious, actually. The narrative is loaded with literary and ornithological information, includes epigraphs from folks like Darwin, Kierkegaard, and Robert Lowell, and features characters who worship E.B. White and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Clio Marsh’s mother committed suicide less than a year earlier after a long struggle with bipolar disease, a truth she's having trouble confronting and sharing with her boyfriend. Clearly, the novel wants to be a lot more than a lighthearted love story. Yet it's most successful in its less serious or pedantic moments. Particularly clever are the artifacts from the characters' lives: a New York magazine review of Clio's bird-watching walks in Central Park, a list of Smith's life-coaching goals, an interview with Tate about his app from the Yale Alumni Review, a few college application essays, and a letter found at the bottom of a box of keepsakes.
Enjoyable if at times overly earnest.