IN THE FAMILY WAY by Lynne Sharon Schwartz


Email this review


The author of The Fatigue Artist (1995), among several others, rings mischievous changes on the idea of “family values.” Schwartz made her fictional debut with Rough Strife (1980), a fairly dark view of marriage and kinship bonds. Here, she takes a much lighter tone as she romps through the intricate interconnections of a very extended family, most of its members living in apartments in an Upper West Side building owned by elderly but still randy widow Anna, and managed by her 50ish daughter Bea. The story opens with Bea’s ex-husband Roy succumbing to a pass from his second wife, Serena, who now lives with Bea’s sister May. Serena and May want a baby, and Roy—a psychotherapist and generally agreeable guy—is willing to oblige. He’s shortly to marry Lisa, his daughter Shimmer’s math teacher, so he’s in a generous mood. By the end, Serena, Lisa, and Roy’s daughter-in-law, Melissa, are all giving birth at the same hospital in a rather silly scene that provides a limp climax to a generally enjoyable book. Schwartz provides just enough dark undertones to keep the merriment from feeling trivial: Anna is slowly losing her memory; Tony, Roy’s son with a Vietnamese prostitute, feels cut off from his roots and alienated from his yuppy wife; Danny, Roy and Bea’s son, keeps falling in love with unsuitable, unavailable women; Bea, a caterer by profession and a compulsive nurturer by instinct, can—t seem to prevent her life from being swallowed up in other people’s needs; and most of the characters sense an existential loneliness underlying their frantic (and quite touching) efforts to connect with others. Plausibility is not a top priority here. By the time the wayward daughter of one of Roy’s patients turns out to be Shimmer’s best friend, readers may find all the coincidences and apartment-sharing a bit ridiculous. Still, Schwartz’s old-fashioned storytelling and vivid—if not necessarily deep—characterizations carry the day.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-688-17071-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1999


NonfictionTHIS IS WHERE WE CAME IN by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
FictionTWO-PART INVENTIONS by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
NonfictionNOT NOW, VOYAGER by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
by Lynne Sharon Schwartz