Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Three Weissmanns

Author: Cathleen Schine
Publisher/Format: audio - 10 hrs;  304 page equivalent
Narrator:   Hilary Huber
Characters: Betty, Miranda and Annie Weissmann
Subject: mothers and daughters
Setting: New York City, Westport CT
Genre: women's lit; fiction
Source: public library audio download

A New York Time's notable book of 2010.

At first I thought this was going to be pure chick-lit, but I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of characters Schine gives us in this book about three women:  a mother - 75 year old Betty, and her two daughters- Miranda a failing literary agent, and Annie, a librarian.   Betty's husband-77 year old  Joseph (step-father to the two girls) decides to divorce his wife of  many many years, to marry his new found love - Felicity.  I am not a Jane Austen fan, but can see where many will find this an updated version of Sense and Sensibility retold from the perspective of an upper East Side Jewish woman who is now reduced to living off the hospitality of distant cousin Lou who takes her in, along with the girls, to reside in his guest cottage in Westport.

Schine's characterization is alternately hysterically funny and annoyingly cliched.  There were times when I laughed out loud, and other times when I wanted to shake every one of the characters (and there were a slew of them) and make them wake up and smell the proverbial coffee.

Joseph, who is thoroughly under the spell of Felicity, convinces himself that he is being generous by not allowing Betty to stay in her wonderful New York apartment ('the upkeep is too expensive for her' he is reminded by Miss Felicity).  While Joseph and Betty are trying not to talk to each other (Betty refers to him as her "late departed husband, may he rest in peace"), Miranda is going through the dissolution of her literary agency, and her plunge into personal and professional bankrupcy.  A serial monogamist by nature (she's always in love, but never with more than one man at a time), she finds true love in Westport in the person of a 4 year old toddler being cared for by his good looking actor wannabe father. We know almost immediately that this relationship is going nowhere, but Miranda doesn't seem to see it that way.

Annie, the timid but organized librarian, falls for an author who comes to do a reading at her library, and she too is destined to suffer heartbreak (or is she?) since the timid author's grown children will not allow him to have anything to do with her.  Did I say WILL NOT ALLOW HIM....he's a grown man!!!  As the only Weissmann bringing in any income, Annie is constantly trying to balance their precarious budget, by reining in her spend-thrift mother and sister so that they don't run out of money to pay basic bills.  Betty considers getting her hair colored, and buying new dresses basic spending, and thinks they'll just have to 'get some more money'.  And Miranda finds it absolutely necessary to continue to spend on extravagances also.

How these three are able, with a lot of outside nudgements, to live together in a tiny one-bathroom rustic cottage is an enjoyable tale. Just the scenes where Betty tries to cram a NewYork apartment's worth of furniture into it is worth the entire read. The book moves along quite well, and the reader arrives at the end thinking that the best ending has been achieved.

There are reviews and opinions all over the map on this one, and to me that's one of the signs of a good book-- that it can provoke such different reactions from a variety of readers. For me, it was a truly enjoyable fiction read.


  1. I don't care for chick lit but I think I might actually like this one. Hopefully it gives some flavor of Westport near where I lived for some time in Conn.

  2. normally the phrase chick-lit...or woman's lit...makes me run, but this sounds pretty good.


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