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The Family Manby Elinor Lipman
Synopses & Reviews
"Hilarious and moving . . . The plot alone will suck in readers, but Lipman's knack for creating lovable and multifaceted characters is the real draw." Publishers Weekly (starred)
A hysterical phone call from Henry Archers ex-wife and a familiar face in a photograph upend his well-ordered life and bring him back into contact with the child he adored, a short-term stepdaughter from a misbegotten marriage long ago. Henry is a lawyer, an old-fashioned man, gay, successful, lonely. Thalia is now twenty-nine, an actress-hopeful, estranged from her newly widowed eccentric mother — Denise, Henrys ex. Hoping it will lead to better things for her career, Thalia agrees to pose as the girlfriend of a horror-movie luminary who is down on his romantic luck. When Thalia and her complicated social life move into the basement of Henrys Upper West Side townhouse, she finds a champion in her long-lost father, and he finds new life — and maybe even new love in the commotion.
A venture into new geography and slightly different chambers of the heart for the best comic novelist writing today, THE FAMILY MAN is also classic Lipman irresistible, incisive, and pure pleasure to read.
"A divorced gay man's vanquished paternalism returns when he reconnects with his long-lost stepdaughter in Lipman's hilarious and moving 10th novel. Set in New York, the book opens with Henry Archer phoning his ex-wife, Denise, to offer condolences over the death of her husband, the man Denise divorced then-closeted Henry for. Upon visiting Denise, Henry notices photos of now grown stepdaughter Thalia, a charming wannabe actress he recognizes from the hair salon in his neighborhood, and determines to reenter her life. What ensues is a heartwarming reconnection as Henry and Thalia relearn what it means to be a father and daughter, respectively. When Thalia is hired by a PR firm to play the role of real-life girlfriend to a struggling actor, Henry's fatherly instinct and legal background compel him to ask Thalia to move in with him and to serve as her attorney. During the process of managing Thalia's career, Henry also grows closer to Denise, meets a handsome man and rediscovers the joy of family. The plot alone will suck in readers, but Lipman's knack for creating lovable and multifaceted characters is the real draw." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
I met Elinor Lipman some years ago at a three-day writers' conference in Fort Worth. About six of us were entertained lavishly and given keys to the city. Lipman was fresh, radiant, dewy, and the editor of the local book review section developed a tremendous crush on her. After the introductory dinner he took us dancing at a private club, but he danced only with her. A "great" novelist was one of our... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) party, and Lipman even coaxed the ghost of a smile from him. I've been thinking about the Eleanor Lipman Effect. She uses it both in her approach to life and in her fiction. It must be shaped like an infinity sign, an effect that loops back on itself. If you give someone your undivided attention and are delighted by what you see, the person observed — like the smitten editor or even the "great" author — can't help but reflect that delight back at you, which in turn makes you more delighted, and delightful. For the first time, Lipman sets her novel in New York. As always, she uses a group of decent people on the ragged edge of forlorn at the beginning of her story, but all of them are hopeful about what life will see fit to give them. Henry Archer is an attorney who has retired early so he can enjoy the rest of what he expects will be a relatively short life. (His dad died young from a heart attack.) He is gay but was married briefly to Denise. Now his ex-wife's third husband has died. Henry doesn't attend the funeral, but he does send a condolence note. She, in turn, tells him that her wretched dead husband has two thuggish sons from his first marriage who are taking advantage of a 25-year-old prenup agreement to steal her apartment and all her money. This crisis puts Henry back in touch with Thalia, Denise's daughter from yet another marriage. Thalia, now an aspiring actress, was once Henry's beloved stepdaughter, and he's happy to let her move into the maisonette of his townhouse. Denise, who can't stop blabbing and moaning and complaining, notices, through her tirades and laments, that Henry is living as a lonely bachelor. Determined to fix him up, she introduces him to Todd, who works in "table tops" at a store called Gracious Home. Henry and Todd fall in love, and Thalia turns out to be crazy about Todd, and he returns the compliment. The plot thickens a little more when Thalia gets an acting gig pretending to be the love interest of Leif Dumont, who's starred in many horror films but longs to become a serious leading man. But Thalia has a lot of other boyfriends. And Todd has yet to come out to his mom. And Leif's looks leave a lot to be desired. And the appalling Denise is about to be evicted by those two thuggish sons ... Just because something is "light" doesn't mean it's not masterful. Lipman's use of dialogue, for instance, is exquisite. There's no way I can explain to you how "This guy, this Leif, looks like death warmed over. He's old and bald. Or maybe he's not bald. Or old. Maybe it's shaved" is utterly perfect in the context of the novel. Though I read this book twice, I see that I stopped taking notes both times halfway through. Lipman mesmerized me. She hypnotized me. I admit it freely: I fell victim to the Elinor Lipman Effect. Reviewed by Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
A hysterical phone call from his ex-wife and a familiar face in a photograph upend Henry Archer's well-ordered life to bring him back into contact with the child he adored, a stepdaughter from a misbegotten marriage long ago 320 pp.
In this screwball New York comedy from "an Austen-like stylist" (Washington Post Book World), a man reconnects with a long-lost stepdaughter and finds his life turned upside down.
PRAISE FOR ELINOR LIPMAN AND THE FAMILY MAN
"Elinor Lipmans patented blend of wit, whimsy, and love for her characters makes every sentence of The Family Man shine. The book is a delightful Manhattan romp that offers 300-plus pages of pure reading pleasure." Stephen McCauley, author of THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION
"About the best trick any writer can possess is the ability to make everything look easy, even to other writers who know better. Elinor Lipman possesses this gift in spades." — Richard Russo
"If Jane Austen had been born about two centuries later, gone to Smith, then palled around with Fran Lebowitz, chances are shed have written like Elinor Lipman. She is one of the last urbane romantics." —Julia Glass, Chicago Tribune
A hysterical phone call from Henry Archers ex-wife and a familiar face in a photograph upend his well-ordered life and bring him back into contact with the child he adored, a short-term stepdaughter from a misbegotten marriage long ago. Henry is a lawyer, an old-fashioned man, gay, successful, lonely. Thalia is now twenty-nine, an actress-hopeful, estranged from her newly widowed eccentric mother—Denise, Henrys ex. Hoping it will lead to better things for her career, Thalia agrees to pose as the girlfriend of a horror-movie luminary who is down on his romantic luck. When Thalia and her complicated social life move into the basement of Henrys Upper West Side townhouse, she finds a champion in her long-lost father, and he finds new life—and maybe even new love—in the commotion.
About the Author
ELINOR LIPMAN is the author of ten novels, including The Inn at Lake Devine and My Latest Grievance, winner of the Paterson Fiction Prize. In 2001 she won the New England Book Award for fiction. The film Then She Found Me, directed by and starring Helen Hunt, is based on her first novel.
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