In this concluding volume of Mendelson’s Morningside Heights trilogy (Morningside Heights, 2003; Love, Work, Children, 2005), well-meaning parents discover they have much to learn about their carefully nurtured 18-year-old prodigy.
Anne and Charles Braithwaite have long known that their oldest daughter Jane’s singing voice is remarkable. Despite the demands of family (they have four children) and career (Charles is a tenor for the Metropolitan Opera; Anne, a former concert pianist, now gives lessons), they have fashioned Jane’s entire young life as a trajectory toward Julliard, which they believe will launch her brilliant career. But Jane believes there is more than one way to get to Carnegie Hall, especially when she falls in love with Andrés, the brilliant, homeless ward of their cleaning lady, Gabriela, who is gravely ill and living in a small room off the Braithwaite’s kitchen. A constellation of concerned friends involve themselves in the Braithwaite’s antic home life, including Michael, a renowned physician trapped in a childless, loveless marriage; Greg, an Episcopalian priest with a surplus of compassion; Carla, a brittle former prosecutor who believes charity to individuals undermines good works for all; and Wyatt, a young billionaire harboring a secret fear. When Andrés is arrested in a drug bust on the very day he receives a full-scholarship acceptance to the University of Chicago, the Braithwaites and their friends unite to fight the unforgiving Rockefeller drug laws that often tie the hands of justice. Like the other two novels of the trilogy, this one is set in the artsy, liberal enclave of Morningside Heights near Manhattan’s Columbia University. And again, the neighborhood serves as a Petri dish for the social issues Mendelson’s goodhearted characters are forced to face or deny.
A comedy of manners, with a conscience.