Synopses & Reviews
"This is the story of Henry and me. I wish it had a different end," Sylvia Landsman begins what is, in part, the story of her ill-fated romance.
Divorced, alone, and unexpectedly unemployed, Sylvia escapes to Italy where she meets Henry, a middle-aged expatriate. Henry lives a tony life for which he pays a steep price: the chance to be happy. With his wife's money bankrolling a grand tour, Henry and Sylvia travel a circuitous route. Sylvia entertains Henry with stories which unfold into stories of her peculiar family, her damaged friends, Alma Mahler, dead ducks.
A tapestry of remembrances and regrets, these narrative threads foreshadow Sylvia's shame: through a small, cowardly sin of omission, she betrayed her best friend. Yet when the opportunity arises for Sylvia and Henry to do something brave, the haunting refrain of "if only" leaves Sylvia with one more story of love lived, and lost.
As ever in Binnie Kirshenbaum's work, the compassion and care for her deeply flawed characters is palpable, and her writing is fresh, dark, despairing, and hilarious.
"The Scenic Route is a witty and poignant, and also an extremely interesting and acute, novel. Ms. Kirshenbaum mines a very rich seam that's entirely her own. This is first-rate writing by a novelist who gracefully defies classification." Richard Ford
"I'm much impressed with Binnie Kirshenbaum's The Scenic Route, an idiosyncratic and totally winning 'romance,' in which sentiment and cynicism are poised in a most virtuoso performance." Joyce Carol Oates
"Kirshenbaum's distinctive voice transforms a lightly plotted novel into an enchanting, tangent-strewn meditation on memory, love and luck... Lovely prose and quirky observations carry Kirshenbaum's seventh novel." Kirkus Reviews
"Absurdly underrated Kirshenbaum is at her darkly comic and boldly encompassing best here, diverting us with hairpin-turn humor while slipping us hard truths about memory and inheritance, betrayal and guilt, and the inevitable end of the road." Booklist
Divorced, alone, and unexpectedly unemployed, Sylvia Landsman flees to Italy, where she meets Henry, a wistful, married, middle-aged expatriate. Taking off on a grand tour of Europe bankrolled with his wife's money, Henry and Sylvia follow a circuitous route around the continent—as Sylvia entertains Henry with stories of her peculiar family and her damaged friends, of dead ducks and Alma Mahler. Her narrative is a tapestry of remembrances and regrets...and her secret shame: a small, cowardly sin of omission. Yet when the opportunity arises for Sylvia and Henry to do something small but brave, the refrain "if only" returns to haunt her, leaving Sylvia with one more story of love lived and lost.
About the Author
Binnie Kirshenbaum is the author of An Almost Perfect Moment, On Mermaid Avenue, A Disturbance in One Place, Pure Poetry, Hester Among the Ruins, and History on a Personal Note. She is a professor at Columbia University's School of the Arts, where she is chair of the Graduate Writing Program.