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A cloying first novel, from the author ofThe Island of the Mapmaker’s Wife (stories: 1996), about a 40-year-old academic who, unable to find the right man, wants a house and a baby. She gets them. Lucy, a historian at a Boston-area college, is stymied on her book, stifled in love, and full of questions for wise Hana Matsuo, who laughingly utters cryptic Asian wisdom about love as she tends to her children. This is, be prepared, the sort of book in which everything ethnic is wise and charming and all men—except the true love—are selfishly infantile and used to getting their way.) Among the men Lucy is involved with is professor David, who huffs and puffs, doesn’t like to be crossed in conversation, but is basically a big ol” huggy bear whom Lucy might come to love. Until: “If you had a child, you’d pay too much attention to the baby. Not to me anymore.” Fetch the guy his bottle. Then there’s professor Martin, on leave in Japan, who spends his days wandering sacred gardens and pondering cryptic Asian wisdom about love. Martin was Lucy’s great passion, but he couldn—t bring himself to leave his wife. Finally, there’s professor Arthur, recently moved to Somerville from Berkeley, who tends to his dying wife and—right, recites cryptically wise Asian poetry about love. Recent immigrants Mr. and Mrs. Yu (whom Lucy “respectfully” cannot call by their first names) are funny/charming/wise and add local color, as well as the oddities of a new tongue, to this incestuous band of feeling folk. After much sensitive dithering and agonizingly precious dinner parties, Lucy finally winds up with Martin in the house widower Arthur leaves her in Somerville. She adopts a Romanian child and has a garden. No “rag-and-bone shop of the heart” in sight, just page after page of plastic, politically correct “feelings.”

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1999
ISBN: 0-517-70444-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harmony
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999