A husband is tempted to cheat, and a happy marriage is threatened in the most successful novel yet from Hedges, best known as the author (and later director) of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1991).
The title refers to Brooklyn’s choicest neighborhood, home to alternating narrators Kate and Tim Welch. Young marrieds with two small sons, they love the kid-friendly Heights but are struggling to stay afloat; Tim’s salary teaching history at a local academy just isn’t enough. They’re both refugees from difficult parents, Tim fleeing a tyrannical basketball coach, Kate a hippie mother all drugs and drama. After nine years, their “great, ordinary love” still glows. There’s nothing ordinary, though, about Anna Brody, the newest young mother on the scene and the story’s catalyst. Anna is beautiful, rich and impulsive. Her husband Philip, a self-effacing financial titan, has just bought her the grandest house in the neighborhood, a virtual palace. Her arrival coincides with changes for Tim and Kate. A former employer of Kate’s has offered her a fabulous six-figure position doling out grant money, and Tim has agreed to take a year off, look after the boys and work on his much-delayed dissertation. Hedges has fun showing Tim’s admission into the tightly knit circle of playground mothers and his growing fascination with Anna, less a femme fatale then a troubled soul battling a promiscuous husband. Spontaneously, she makes Tim a one-time offer: a weekend at a Manhattan hotel. Tim goes to church and prays for signs; God is encouraging. Readers by now are so invested in the Welch marriage that the will-he-or-won’t-he? suspense creates page-turning momentum. A parallel story line involves the reappearance of Kate’s old flame, a very bad, very successful TV actor, and a trip to Disney World. Hedges brings a touch of farce into the many twists before the climax.
Warm-hearted yet unsentimental, a smooth weave of marital and neighborhood dynamics.