From the prolific Delbanco (The Vagabonds, 2004, etc.), a low-wattage romance about former college sweethearts whose feelings rekindle when they meet again, by accident, 40 years later.
Lawrence is now a twice-divorced, 64-year-old professor of architecture who has recently undergone an angioplasty. Sixty-three-year-old Hermia lives alone, having raised her daughter by herself after escaping an abusive husband. In 1962, Hermia, a junior at Radcliffe, and Lawrence, a senior at Harvard, were each other’s first loves, carrying on an intense affair that ended only because neither was mature enough for permanent commitment. During the intervening 40 years, there has been no communication between them, although Hermia did Google Lawrence, so she knows the public facts of his life. Now they happen to be on the same Mediterranean cruise. Once Hermia establishes that Lawrence is a Democrat (her one non-negotiable), they cautiously step back into a relationship. Delbanco interlaces his characters’ late-life affair with the stories of their lives up to that point. He’s covering a lot of territory—spouses, jobs, geographic moves—and these sections often have the feel of summary. But Hermia’s troubled relationship with her daughter Patricia carries real weight. The girl ran away at 17 and has since contacted her mother with only sporadic cards, with no return address. Months after the cruise, Lawrence visits Hermia at the home she inherited from her father on the Cape, a house where Lawrence and Hermia had long ago spent glorious time together. As they’re settling into an affectionate, if less passion-driven, life, Lawrence experiences a new bout of heart trouble. Their love only deepens. And out of the blue, Patricia shows up. Lawrence wonders if he should depart to make way for the reconciliation, but Hermia asks him to stay.
Delbanco’s writing is smooth, but bland.