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Another sharply observed, if avowedly romantic, comedy of manners from Lipman (The Ladies’ Man, 1999, etc.), an unreconstructed Janeite.

Sunny Batten gets jolting news from the King George, New Hampshire, police. Her mother has died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, thanks to a faulty furnace. “She and her fiancé didn’t suffer,” the police chief tells her gently over the phone. Sunny—short for Sondra but unreflective of her general outlook on life—is devastated. Though they’d been living apart (college, a series of jobs), she and her mother had always been emotionally close. Or so she’d thought. But when she recovers enough to contemplate something other than her horrific loss, she finds that little in her mother's actual world corresponds to her own idea of it. Fiancé? How could there possibly be such a person when Sunny knew nothing of his existence? In the days that follow she learns much about Margaret Batten that comes as a surprise. Miles Finn, the putative fiancé, had in fact been her mother’s secret lover for well over 30 years. In addition, there is every likelihood that his relationship to Sunny herself was weightier than she had at first been led to believe. And that being the case, certain ancillary conclusions are unavoidable. At the funeral, for instance—the double funeral, that is—Fletcher Finn, son of the deceased Miles, a brash young man only slightly younger than 31-year-old Sunny, materializes—disconcertingly. Which is to say that his resemblance to her is so striking that the assembled King George folks gasp collectively, leaving Sunny to consider the sudden, unnerving possibility of siblinghood. But not every revelation is disquieting. This is Lipman, after all, and the sensitive, kind police chief turns out to be Joey Loach, who sometimes sat behind Sunny—rather yearningly—in high school study hall.

Austen would have approved: astringency with a happy ending.

Pub Date: June 19th, 2001
ISBN: 0-679-46312-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2001


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