ROSALIND: A Family Romance by Myra Goldberg

ROSALIND: A Family Romance

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In one of those literate and hip novels that are more about the head than the heart, an unexpected encounter with mortality is the catalyst for a family of urban sophisticates to examine their lives and finally grow up. Set in Boston and New York, Goldberg's debut novel (after the collection Whistling, 1993) offers a wry portrait of a time and a class, with a muted subtext that ponders the role of mothers. The time (the free-spending '80s) and the class (the educated self-regarding class that clusters in Cambridge and New York) are part of a story that echoes Shakespeare's As You Like It. Thus the female lead is called Rosalind; what happens to her transforms the supporting cast of family members in ways they don't expect and the affirming final chapter takes place, appropriately, in the woodsy Adirondacks, where the family summers. When 37-year-old Rosalind, a successful therapist, undergoes emergency heart surgery in Boston, the intimations of mortality concentrate not only her mind but also affect siblings Lev and Lila, husband Henry, mother Stella, and daughters Nana and Sophie. Though Rosalind has a beautiful face, she's grossly overweight because only food had assuaged her in times of trouble--like when her first husband abandoned her and left her with then baby Nana. Now, while Rosalind, sure she's dying, gorges on junk food, Nana and Sophie, faced with their mother's illness, become more self-reliant; Henry, an architect and idealist who's been supported by Rosalind, finds a job; Lila determines to persevere with her art; and Rosalind and Stella make peace. Grown up at last, in New York's equivalent of Arden's forest, Rosalind and her family accept ""the revelation of the ordinary"" and the need to continue even in the fact of death. Rites of passage for the boomers--whose angsts, even when life-threatening, seem overanalyzed and overblown--coolly observed in taut, edgy prose.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Zoland