In a topsy-turvy suburbia, the memoir-author (Selling Ben Cheever, 2002) and novelist (Famous After Death, 1999, etc.) visits the sorrows of Job upon a hapless book editor who hires a mysterious nanny who turns out to be his undoing—and salvation.
Recently relocated from Manhattan to Scarborough, New York, editor Stuart Cross and his film critic wife Andie hope the bucolic atmosphere of Westchester will provide them with fewer worries about the well being of their daughters Jane and Ginny, but the early signs are mixed. Although Andie does manage to find a first-rate nanny (an aspiring painter named Louise Washington), she’s uneasy about leaving the girls in the care of hired help—especially now, when the papers are still running headlines about Tillie Cove, the Manhattan nanny who let a 14-month-old baby drown in a bathtub while she chatted on the phone. And Westchester isn’t the Eden it once was: Just down the road in Ossining, a pediatrician was recently killed by a total stranger in a street-corner argument. When Andie comes home early one day to find Louise and the girls missing, she panics and calls the police. Although the mystery is soon solved (they’d gone to the zoo), Andie’s anxiety sets in motion a complicated chain of events that eventually costs Stuart his job. Depressed, angry, and confused, he decides to make a virtue of necessity and revive his writing career by finishing the novel he had always wanted to write. But now that he has the time, Stuart can’t think of a thing to say—while Louise has just sold her first painting to MoMA for $35,000! Is the world entirely devoid of justice, or does God just have a sense of humor? The answer is even stranger than you might guess.
Although Cheever’s parody of suburbia (“Tara-on-Hudson”) and publishing (“Bathos Literary Agency”) can be a tad heavy-handed, this is an immensely funny and sharp account of the vanity of human wishes.