A sometimes charming but more often inefficient debut about “a fifty-nine-year-old woman, happily married, infatuated with a young woman half her age.”
Mrs. Medina married Mr. Medina, a famous cellist, when she was 36 and he almost 60. It’s now two-and-a-half decades later, and while Patrick is on his way out, Mercedes is just hitting cruising speed. The two have had enough of a wonderful life that Mrs. Medina worries over the size of the chunks of meat that she cuts for her husband and closely monitors the one cigar he’s allowed each month. Still, when Mercedes’ latent instincts awaken with the arrival of Lennie, a young beautiful woman who works in a local flower store and who may have some dirty dealings, the impulse cannot be ignored. Mercedes confides in a university colleague, and it’s nice to know that even at the highest reaches of academia the simple phrase “I think I’m in love” can cause the stuffiest of intellectuals to abandon their scholarship and titter like teenagers. Mrs. Medina even tells Patrick about the affair—but not to worry: Patrick has an eye for the young “stacked” ones, too, and he’s a good sport about it. Patrick becomes a consistent source of humor and poignancy, and his portrait as a lesson on aging is worth the price of admission—but he’s not the main character. Mercedes’ affair comes and goes, and Patrick dies, and it’s a good thing that only the rich become lovelorn because in this world a broken heart is a serious condition requiring expensive therapy and a live-in cook. Mercedes in truth seems a little light. When she is slow to catch on to Lennie’s shenanigans, it undermines her weight as a serious intellect. Final message? Everyone loves beautiful young women—good thing there are enough to go around.
Wadsworth seems afraid to venture outside straightforward narrative realism—the characters we care about disappear well before the end.