Male and female menopause on Long Island causes flashes of heroism, private and public.
Emma Mallick and Gerald Strauss, both 53 in 1998, have wearied of their jobs as, respectively, social worker and radiologist. Gerald has also lost desire for his wife. Their 18-year-old gay son is unhappy. Gerald’s septuagenarian father is unhappy. So is Emma’s lesbian sister Jess. Emma’s new role as executrix of her artist father’s estate brings her no more satisfaction than a young prostitute, Mallory, gives Gerald. Grossman (Brian in Three Seasons, 2005) then piles on the revelation that Emma and Jess have a half-sister and a niece. Grossman’s protagonists have some escape from their messy families. Gerald finds satisfaction in volunteerism; Emma gathers the courage to leave the suburb she always disliked. The characters’ problems and resolutions are plausible, but there is a “clunky earnestness of the soul” in Grossman’s telling. She judges no one—not the elderly suicide, not the birth mother for a gay couple—except the reader, who is never trusted to respond without the guidance of the author’s explanatory sludge. Only at the end, when the birth mother from Georgia speaks, is there a freshet of colloquial energy.
Midlife, middle class, middlebrow.