A taut, masterfully controlled and profoundly moving novel about family ties—blood or otherwise.
The prologue to the third novel by Lasser (All I Could Get, 2002, etc.) begins ominously, in New York, on the morning of the day that the chapter title identifies simply as “9/11.” “What a glorious day,” thinks 41-year-old Kyle, a bond trader who has done so well for himself that he plans to retire in four years. He has just paid for his sister, Cat, two years older, to come visit him from Detroit, and the two commemorate the death of their mother so many years ago. Kyle reveals that a woman with whom he had recently ended a passionate affair has a baby son, apparently his. So life goes on, until it so abruptly doesn’t, for Kyle and for his former lover, who also dies that day, leaving Cat to come to terms with the fact that her beloved brother may well have left a son behind. Cat also has a son, from a marriage that was a mistake, and a father from whom she isn’t quite estranged but with whom she isn’t particularly close. As the novel unfolds at a matter-of-fact pace, wallowing neither in melodrama nor sentimentality, chapters alternate between those in which Cat’s life unfolds and those featuring her father, who wants to reunite with her, a year after his son’s death, for a ceremony of the Jewish faith in which neither of them believes, “paying reverence to an unknown God, often in a language they could not understand.” By then both father and daughter have secrets they’re reluctant to share. In the wake of shattering loss, they must pick up the pieces while negotiating the delicate balance between holding on and moving on. In the process, they rediscover the essence of family, how it helps them to “handle life, the way it unfolded, uncertain and unknowable.”
A novel with barely a wasted word or an emotion that doesn’t ring true.