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THE VIEW FROM PENTHOUSE B by Elinor Lipman

THE VIEW FROM PENTHOUSE B

By Elinor Lipman

Pub Date: April 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-547-57621-3
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Lipman’s latest is a post–financial-crash comedy about a 50-ish widow and her divorced sister living together in a Greenwich Village apartment.

After the heart-attack death of her beloved husband, Gwen-Laura accepts her older sister Margot’s invitation to move into Margot’s penthouse both for companionship and to save money. Margo’s ex, fertility doctor Charles, is in jail for behavior that was both scandalously illegal and adulterous. Margo, who made the unfortunate mistake of investing her divorce settlement with scam artist Bernie Madoff, is now not only divorced, but broke. Margo is a drama queen with a blog devoted to anti-Madoff resentment. Gwen-Laura is a bit of a retiring mouse who doesn’t acknowledge her potential sex appeal. (Their bossy younger sister Betsy is still married, employed and financially solvent.) Soon, the sisters move in an unrelated, not exactly appropriate roommate: former Lehman Brother employee Anthony, who is not only gay, but in his 20s. Fueled by liquor and the wonderful cupcakes Anthony bakes, the three are having a lovely time together when Charles, newly sprung from prison, moves into a studio apartment in the same building and starts a campaign to win back Margot that includes introducing everyone to his newly discovered 19-year-old son, Chaz, the result of his fertility hanky-panky. Will Margot drop her new blog boyfriend, screen named HardUp, for narcissistic but maybe self-improving Charles? Will Gwen-Laura ever meet a decent man once she grudgingly enters the world of Internet dating? Will Anthony meet a decent man too? The answers are not terribly surprising, but Lipman is more interested in the jokes than the characters, taking a sitcom approach. Although the author throws in plenty of contemporary social details, Gwen-Laura and Margot feel dated, closer to the world of Auntie Mame than Girls and without the edge of either.

This book has more romance and less satiric bite than the author's best comic novels (The Family Man, 2009, etc.).