AT HER AGE by Marian Novick


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A first novel told mostly, in less-than-dulcet New York tones, by Molly Vorobey, a senior citizen on the lam from a Florida rest home. It's Harold & Maude without the sex, Harry & Tonto without the cat. There is a dinosaur skeleton, however, used as a prop in the family reconciliation scene set in the Museum of Natural History. Wisecracking Molly, a true borsht-belt comedieene, emigrated from Russia with her mother, to escape pogroms; her father, afraid of the unknown, stayed behind, never to be seen again. In New York, Molly married Jack, against her mother's wishes, and Jack left her when she stopped sleeping with him after her mother's death. This animosity carries over into Molly's relationship with her own daughter, Sheila (""People thought she was Jack's farewell gift. . .""), who is actually the illegitimate child of the kindly Sam, married to another woman. For reasons that elude us (somewhat to the book's detriment), Molly refuses to admit to Sheila that Sam, whom they both adore and who adores them, is her father. When the book opens, in a home where old-age pensioners race each other to breakfast in wheelchairs and walkers, mother and daughter haven't spoken to each other for two years, and Molly--desperate for attention--""escapes"" from the home, takes her savings and hits New York City. Here, her sharp eye and tongue give us comic scenes in which she skews the everyday: a flirtation with the driver of a horse-drawn cab in Central Park; borsht at the Russian Tea Room (more opportunity for delicious flashbacks to Russia). But then she's mugged, and winds up hiding out, penniless, in her grandson's college dorm room. These college chapters drag--despite a nice scene in which two coeds tape-record Molly's ""oral history"" for a feminist sociology class--and, finally, Molly does little but play canasta with her young friends. This seems to be a book about hunger and competition for love, but after skirting painful territory, it becomes manic and glib at the end. Still, it's at times very funny, very moving, and an auspicious debut for an obviously talented writer.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Scribners