In this exquisitely stripped-down novel from Massachusetts attorney Behar (Hoops, 2002), a group of six over-the-hill lawyers swaps case stories over breakfast at the titular greasy spoon.
Every Sunday, Carpenter (the reader never learns his first name) meets fellow attorneys Delaney, Fish, Morton, Steinberg and Weiskoff for coffee, eggs and a sizable helping of good conversation at the same two tables pushed together near the front window of Ed’s Breakfast Emporium. Prickly proprietor Ed has dubbed the group of regulars the “Barristers,” while the men have affectionately adopted the name for their end-of-the-week ritual. Told through a series of vignettes, the novel limns a handful of these breakfasts over the course of five summers as the group discusses politics, the Red Sox and cases on which they have recently toiled—with names judiciously changed, of course. The cases discussed range from heartbreaking ones of broken families without happy endings to more unusual fare, including one involving two Wiccans, a love spell and a restraining order. While the cases may differ, the breakfasts play out with a careful repetitiveness that deliciously captures the routine of everyday life. Weiskoff is always good for an out-of-the-blue comment. Delaney hardly ever fails at steering the conversation back on track. Ed can be relied upon to drop in on the middle of a story, orders in hand, and inject a stinging dose of blue-collar criticism into the white-collar chitchat. It’s not hard to imagine running into these aging, overweight and admittedly unextraordinary characters in real life, yet they remain completely absorbing. Between the witty zingers and moments of lightheartedness, the Barristers each struggle with bouts of dissatisfaction, uncertain about their present lots in life, and readers can’t help but relate.
A poignant, delightful take on morality, friendship, growing older and the legal profession.