A week of holiday togetherness has its ups and downs for three generations of a large, accomplished family.
In a follow-up to A Weekend in New York (2018), Markovits brings back the Essinger family, which convened in the first book to watch Paul, one of four siblings, compete in the U.S. Open. In this installment, parents Liesel and Bill host the annual Christmas celebration at the family home in Austin, Texas. All are returning to the homestead from points on the East Coast and beyond except for Paul, who has retired from tennis, split up with his girlfriend, Dana, and moved back to the area. With nothing but money in the bank and time on his hands, he’s thrown himself into building a compound down the road from Austin in rural Wimberley (who will live in this place with him is sadly unclear) and also into daily fitness training so he can keep up with Lance Armstrong, whom he bikes with on Sundays. But he and Dana have a young son, and his mother, Liesel, is unhappy about the split. She invites Dana to attend the weeklong gathering despite the fact, as she herself points out in the first sentence of the book, “There are too many of us.…Fifteen, including Bill and me.” The omniscient narrator is deep inside the heads of 14 of them—the nursing baby gets a pass—convincingly and insightfully tracking the micromovements of emotions, relationships, and conversations. The Austin setting is remarkably granular as well, including myriad geographic details and street names, restaurant and Christmas tree vendor recommendations, capturing the ethos of the town with confident panache. “Nathan, when he saw her, was reminded of how much he liked Austin, that it could produce such people—independent, dignified, unobtrusive, free-thinking….Around election time she always stuck a simple blue-and-white Lloyd Doggett US Congress sign in her front yard.”
For readers who value detailed observation of human nature and those who'd like to visit Austin without springing for plane fare.