A perfectly charming debut in which a septuagenarian from Liverpool travels to Long Island in search of her long-lost fiancé.
Daisy Phillips is feeling the pressure to move from her quaint English home to a state-of-the-art retirement community. She loves her house, but since her husband’s death eldest son Dennis has been taking care of things, and now that he’s moving hours from Liverpool, he wants her to follow (and so does his young wife, who wants the cash from the sale of Daisy’s house). She engages in a few harrowing (though successful) attempts at home repair, which steel her resolve to stay put; furthermore Daisy decides to travel again. Rooting through some boxes she finds a relic from her past—a watch given (in lieu of a ring) to her by Michael Baker, an American soldier she fell in love with during World War II. He was to return for her, but his letters stopped abruptly, and then life went on. Daisy decides to travel to America and locate Michael, or at least his descendants, to return the watch (made additionally special as it is inscribed by Arthur Rubinstein, Michael’s piano teacher). She contacts American cousins she’s never met, and soon she is in Long Island, immersed in their family intrigues. Staying with her second cousin Elisabeth and her brood of sons, Daisy gets a firsthand glimpse at the impossibly overscheduled lives of affluent Americans. Elisabeth barely has a moment to breathe while worrying about teenage son Michael, and her husband Richard, who she fears is Dart Man, a menace who has been shooting darts into the behinds of Manhattan’s women. Meanwhile, young Michael is helping Daisy search for her missing G.I., and with the help of 92-year-old Hulda Kheist (a rascal in a novel of wonderfully drawn characters), who still lives in the building Michael wrote from in 1945, they make it to New Hampshire, where Michael was last seen. Unabashedly tender, the cinematic quality of the prose—composed mostly of short, fragmented sentences—prevents the story from becoming sentimental.
A small gem of a novel.