Daphne Maritch has no idea why her mother, a popular New Hampshire high school teacher, left her a heavily annotated yearbook for the class of 1968—but she's about to find out whether she wants to or not.
As Lipman's latest comic novel (On Turpentine Lane, 2017, etc.) opens, Daphne is attempting to declutter her apartment according to the principles of a bestselling book: Hold each item to your heart and ask "does this thing inspire joy?" Despite her mother's obsession with the class of '68—she was their teacher and yearbook adviser fresh out of college, then attended their reunions for decades—the answer with regard to their yearbook is a firm no, and she pitches the thing out. Unfortunately, one of the neighbors in her New York apartment building is both a dedicated trash-picker and an aspiring filmmaker. This neighbor lays claim to the yearbook, convinced that she can base a fascinating documentary on research into the fates of this group of 60-somethings. Daphne's belated attempts to derail the project, which seems to have the potential to reveal her dead mother's secrets, lead to all sorts of madcap adventures. She enlists another neighbor, a sexy young TV actor, in her efforts; she takes a trip to this year's reunion with the documentary filmmaker; she desperately tries to insulate her father, erstwhile principal of the same high school, now a widowed dog-walker in Manhattan, from the whole project and its revelations. It's pretty silly, and very contrived, but this author has a black belt in silly contrivance and a faithful horde of fans who are looking for just that. Au courant elements like an investigative podcast serial, the television show Riverdale, and online courses for becoming a chocolatier add a fresh twist to the proceedings.
Lipman's narrative brio keeps things moving at a good clip.