A May-December romance is at the center of this layered, engaging debut fiction.
The narrator is the articulate, observant photographer Teresa—friends call her Terry, while she is Tatie to her older lover Rhinehart. Terry was Rhinehart’s lover in college; he a visiting professor, she a student. When she reads his obit in the New York Times, she realizes how fresh the wound is, despite the 15 years since their on-again, off-again affair dissolved in tears. But Rhinehart is not dead, but married to Laura, a woman they both knew. Rhinehart is a poet alienated from his muse, remote but benign and obsessed with his complicated family. As love often does for lovers, their feelings for each other cascade through their own lives. Terry resumes her own work and gets help negotiating the predatory New York art scene from an unlikely source. Rhinehart woos his muse and wrestles his demons. Terry tells of her early life, of her best friend Hallie, a conflicted, nervy woman. A housewife in suburban New Jersey, she has too much time on her hands. A dinner party at Hallie’s arid suburban mansion, where recrimination is canapé, is a fraught black comedy. The book features several parties and gives us glimpses of hard partying: This delicate matter—how private lives become public, how our public selves have their own continuity and duration—is handled sensitively. If the arc of the narrative is too parabolic, if the action rises too steadily, Lott’s characterization, dialogue and affection for her characters is winning.
Accomplished debut fiction.