She’s 13, he’s 40; she’s been given her walking papers from her mother, he’s the uncle there to catch her: they are a modernized odd couple, and the sparks they throw are a glowing pyrotechnic display.
Tiffany is a piece of work, lustrous and intuitive as the art pieces that share her name, then more like the broken glass you step on in a darkened kitchen late at night. Her uncle Eddy, the narrator, is a gay film agent living in Manhattan. His overwhelmed sister calls: please get Tiffany out of here—meaning her catastrophic Connecticut home and social life—and newcomer Wintle, a brick and a loving uncle, agrees. “I was a single, forty-year-old man stuck in intermission . . . my life needed that proverbial shot in the arm. What I would get, though, would prove to be more like electroshock therapy.” Tiffany is a life force with attitude problems, a taste for belly-button jewels and face tackle, who informs Wintle that snorting dust will make you paranoid (heroin makes you mellow, she notes), and can play her uncle’s heart like a bongo and crack it like a coconut; Wintle is an obsessive-compulsive “all-time Control Queen” who will rise to the occasion, bringing to it a delightfully nuanced, impractical, caring, ham-handed, heart-gladdening, inclusive, protective approach. Tiffany behaves like a teenager, strewing grief, angst and love in her wake, while her uncle struggles to meet each new challenge head on, taking cues from his own sad youth and fraught adulthood (the ghosts troop out of his closet one by one) with a gorgeous clarity. The story begins and ends with Tiffany’s freshman year at high school (“This summer I’m going to need to go on the pill,” she says in closing), leaving readers to pray volumes sophomore through senior.
Here’s hoping Wintle gets to negotiate his own film rights. “Whatever,” as Tiffany would say, he deserves to make a bundle, split evenly with his bundle.