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by Sara Gran

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 2001
ISBN: 1-56947-252-1
Publisher: Soho

Thoughtful debut about a young woman coming to terms with her father’s suicide and her mother’s illness.

Unlike much of the self-consciously hip, unattached-woman-juggles-career-and-romance stories glutting the market, Gran’s first offers sly humor while incorporating some emotional heft. Twenty-nine-year-old Mary has a mildly satisfying job in New York at an on-line bookseller, a reasonably priced apartment, and a few close girlfriends. But all this moderate happiness will soon be called into question as Saturn enters her astrological house. As a birthday gift, Mary is given an in-depth reading from an Indian mystic and is told that every 29 years Saturn returns to where it began, causing upheaval and, perhaps, enlightenment. Mary could do with a little of the latter, having had enough upheaval for a lifetime. Daughter of Michael and Evelyn Forrest, literary royalty of Greenwich Village, Mary spent a charmed early childhood in the midst of writers and assorted bohemians as her parents founded the city’s foremost literary journal. The charm was broken with her father’s suicide when she was seven, driving an unspoken wedge of guilt and sorrow between Mary and Evelyn. Only now, as her mother's memory is mysteriously slipping, do the two make attempts at real friendship, Mary growing to appreciate the brilliant woman her mother is. Evelyn’s failing health isn’t the only Saturn surprise: Austin, a true love who disappeared, is now back on the scene and hopes to rekindle a relationship. Storyline aside, one of the most compelling characters here is the city itself. Woody Allen himself would be proud of the affectionate portrait made of Manhattan, the small hidden spots and treasured eateries of the past and the slightly less glorious present.

Plot-strings unravel a bit at end, but this is better than the usual single-woman fare, and a must for nostalgic Manhattanites.