2010. 102. The Family Man

“Henry Archer did not attend his ex-wife’s husband’s funeral, but he did send a note of condolence.”

The Family Man, Elinor Lipman

        This is an absolutely enjoyable piece of fiction.  It’s the story of Henry Archer, a gay man living in New York, who sends a note of condolence when his former wife (from before he faced the reality of his sexuality) loses her husband (the man she left him for).  Even though he hasn’t forgiven Denise for leaving him (despite the whole gay thing), or for taking away his stepdaughter (whom he briefly adopted), Thalia, he lets her back into his life, and from that delightful complications ensue.  It is a breeze to read, and its great fun, and I would absolutely read more Lipman.

       My only caveat is that the quotes on the back of the book make it seem like much more than it is.  I mean, the book is referred to as “Austen-like” twice.  And while her subject matter (i.e.  love and family relationships and social class) is like Austen, Lipman isn’t Austen.  For one thing, the stakes are very  low here. I had no doubt from the first word to the end that everything was going to work out absolutely perfectly, and, of course, it did.  Which doesn’t mean that it wasn’t great fun, and it’s very well-written comic fiction.  But just, you know, if you call something Austen like - or say that “if Jane Austen had been born two centuries later” she would have written this book, you’ve raised the stakes pretty high.  Still, I doubt Lipman herself would claim she’s the second coming of Jane, and it’s not her fault her reviewers were hyperbolic. 

Categories:  Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017