MEN IN TROUBLE by Sarah Payne Stuart
Kirkus Star


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By 1965, Lizzie Reade's liberal, eccentric, affluent family is beginning to exhibit signs of Salingeresque derangement that will end in altered expectations for Lizzie and her three beloved, brilliant older brothers--in a graceful, insouciant, wonderfully particular, and finally sad and moving first novel about growing up in a time when madness mimicked a lucid response to the world. Lizzie is 14 and still dresses in ""pressed slacks and a flip"" (""This was year before the parents discovered the Vietnam War and switched to the Unitarian Church"") when Harry, her middle brother, a freshman at Harvard who plays the flute and ""three kinds of sax"" and won the Concord, Mass., science fair every year with ""a couple of sticks glued together under a black-and-white poster that said Congruent Polygons,"" goes mad for the first time. The family takes this in stride: in fact, a stay in the local mental hospital is a sort of family tradition, beginning with a passel of great-aunts and including Lizzie's mild-mannered mother, who spent two apparently blithe years rehabilitating there after Lizzie was born. Besides, Lizzie is too busy listening to Bob Dylan records with her handsome closest brother, Spencer, to notice--that is, until, when she is 16, Harry goes mad again. This time, on the eve of Lizzie's own entry into Harvard, Harry completely debilitated, drops out; and Lizzie, who has always adored him, begins to take care of him. This she does for the next four years, mostly in Cambridge, through Harry's fits of uproarious mania and depression, Spencer's failed academic (and successful musical) career, her eldest brother George's befuddled marriage and divorce, her parents' surprise remove from Concord to New York, her own muddled Harvard love affairs and withdrawal from the college--and finally, through shock treatments for Harry, which ""work"" but make it clear that none of the Reades will ever resume the paths that seemed to shine so brightly and surely in 1965. A fascinating, spirited and highly satisfying--if sad--portrait of a family and a time.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1988
Publisher: Harper & Row