In her newest, about a young boy raised by his madcap half sister, Schine (The Three Wiessmanns of Westport, 2010, etc.) joins the spate of recent authors attempting to capture the zeitgeist of the 1960s.
In 1964, after 11-year-old Fin’s mother dies, he leaves the Connecticut farm where he’s lived since his father’s death to live in Manhattan with his new guardian, his father’s daughter from his first marriage. Although she is Fin’s only living relative, the last time they were together was six years earlier, when he went with his parents to Capri, where Lady had run away to avoid a socially acceptable marriage. Now 24, Lady is a mix of Auntie Mame and Holly Golightly—beautiful, effervescent and emotionally wounded. Whether carefree or careless, she is luckily extremely rich. She moves Fin into a hip but far from shabby Greenwich Village brownstone and enrolls him in a progressive school without desks or grading. She throws wild parties, drives a convertible, roots for the Mets and dabbles in leftist politics. She also puts Fin in charge of finding her a suitable husband. She has three suitors: Tyler, the fiance she jilted at the altar as a pregnant 18-year-old, has become the still besotted if bitter lawyer in charge of Fin’s financial estate; handsome, not-too-bright jock Jack’s appeal lies in his preppy shallowness; then there is Fin’s choice, Biffi, a Hungarian Jew who survived World War II to become an art dealer of genuine kindness and wit. But the deep-seated sorrow peaking up through Biffi’s charm scares Lady off. Loved by all three men, she’s unable to love anyone except Fin and their black housekeeper, Mable, a character who defies conventional stereotypes and thus personifies the upheavals in the decade’s civil rights movement. Then she returns to Capri and discovers the joy and danger of being in love herself.
Schine offers up a bittersweet lemon soufflé of family love and romantic passion.