The Family Man--Elinor Lipman

I found The Family Man on one of the endless lists of "best ofs" that the web seems so populated by. (Although, I think this list may have been in Bookmarks.  This after I had read numerous reviews of Elinor Lipman being the new Jane Austen, writing the comedies of manners of our times.

Perhaps.  But then we know all such comparisons and reviews are prone to hyperbole.  So let me indulge in another.  I would probably compare Elinor Lipman to Thorne Smith without most of the fantastic elements.  Ms. Lipman produces fine characters and (if this book is any indication) intricate plots with many twists and turns.  Often referred to as screwball comedy, I had to agree with this evaluation as the plots seem to update Bringing up Baby, The Lady Eve, and other such fare of the thirties and forties.

The Family Man--what can I say about it that doesn't give away one feature or another of this incredibly intricate plot? Well, I can say what happens on the first two pages as a gay lawyer reengages with his ex-wife after the funeral of her second, third husband as a result of writing her a condolence note.  This wife is one with whom he does not wish to reengage; however, once the note is written, the ex-wife is impossible to shake. Add into that a step-daughter that he hasn't seen in years and who is the source of one of his deepest regrets in life, and you have a full-charged screwball comedy situation.

And, for the most part, Ms. Lipman manages to pull it all off.  What was fascinating and wonderful to me was the way in which every person in the story is engaging. It isn't often that one reads serious fiction that is also upbeat and positive about people.  And the fact of the matters is that it is possible to have both serious treatment and a more positive attitude.  But as with the nightly news--trauma tend to make a better story.

So, in her handling of intricate plotting, likeable characters, and believable interactions, Ms. Lipman has shown herself, in this book, as one likely to join the ranks of Thorne Smith, Angela Thirkell, and other such purveyors of buoyant and yet sharp observations of humanity.

**** Recommended.


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