Preachy, glum debut tale of mid-40s wife and mother in the doldrums of suburban New Jersey.
Deriding the 1950s housewifery of her pampered mother, whose panacea for her Long Island depression was to have another child, middle-aged daughter Julie Berman acts out boldly in order not to behave in the same passive, nonconfrontational way in her own household with husband Eric and two almost grown children. On a visit to Palm Beach to visit her breezy, ailing parents, Julie learns that her 74-year-old mother has pancreatic cancer and has no intention of seeking treatment: “She doesn’t want any pain,” her bland father assures Julie. Then, returning home, Julie is informed that daughter Alexis, attending college upstate, wants to join the junior-year abroad program in order to be with her new love interest, young married professor Russell, and Lexie, by the way, is still a virgin. Sixteen-year-old son Jake, on the other hand, has just met a girl named Beth and lost his own virginity, in the bedroom of their home, while Julie’s supervisor at the New Jersey Suburban Sentinel is attractive, witty, single and coming on to her. Julie’s husband (a “Neanderthal”) has rather more old world ideas of protecting Lexie’s honor (Mafia style), but the parents cook up a scheme to invite charming Russell to a rollicking seder, featuring many colorful and irrepressible relatives. Russell comes, is duly insulted, balks and backs out, then writes a best-selling novel about his love for young Lexie. Borden’s prose, however, does not move this swiftly; instead, it tends to dwell and mope, unlike sleeker similar plotting by Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs, 2002: in both novels, the somewhat estranged, long-time married parents always end up happily in bed at the end). Here, the author is clearly groping for the same audience.
By turns self-congratulatory and moralistic: a lowbrow aim at smart women.