The Family Man Paperback – 4 Feb 2010
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'Elinor Lipman's social satire is Larry David without the high-pitched whine...It's hard (even annoying) to have to put her novels... down. Delightful... snappy and smart' (LA Times )
'Delightful... just because something is 'light' doesn't mean it's not masterful...exquisite... Lipman mesmerized me. She hypnotized me. I admit it freely: I fell victim to the Elinor Lipman Effect' (Washington Post)
'Sparkling...original, funny, achingly human characters' (Entertainment Weekly)
'Elinor Lipman's tenth book finds her at the top of her singular game... Lipman's comic touch remains light but never slight. She writes dialogue that sizzles with playful, effortless wit' (National Public Radio)
'Delightful... exquisite... Lipman mesmerized me. She hypnotized me. I admit it freely: I fell victim to the Elinor Lipman Effect' Washington PostSee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Leif who aches to break into the big time, but so does Thalia, who will stop at nothing to use this as a way to get exposure. Determined to act like she's in love, Leif is trying to do his best to reciprocate in a way that repackages him as a desirable and attractive actor. Henry is initially supportive of Thalia's plan and glad officially re-meet with Thalia, but he chooses keeps the bourgeoning friendship with his neglected and estranged daughter from Denise who is still in the bad books for mortally offending everyone with thoughtless remarks at the funeral of her husband.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There's something unique in Lipman's writing that I've tried to figure out in all ten of her novels. Her secondary characters are written as brilliantly as her main characters. I don't know how she does it - I guess that's why I'm a reader and not a writer - but maybe it's her wonderful dialogue. I'm left after reading her novels with the - unacted on, of course - urge to call her and ask her to write another novel, using the same characters, taking the storyline further. As all her novels are "stand-alones", it's clear she considers each one finished at the end.
She is a worthy successor to the late Laurie Colwin.
When I started "The Family Man" though I thought that was all about to change. Lipman's normal writing style is very descriptive-lots of explained body language written into the text and historical background on characters and tons of detail about clothing, food and architecture. When you add in her slightly soap opera-ish plots with all of their melodrama and black humor you get these perfect, fun books with fast paced plots that aren't too serious and oodles of characters to fall in love with.
But Lipman's latest book is different. For one thing, "The Family Man" is about ninety percent witty dialog (all well written) with very sparse descriptions of anything-including the characters emotions. And then there's the plot-the reuniting of retired gay lawyer Henry Archer with his once upon a time adopted daughter Thalia after her second adopted father's death 24 years after he gave up a custody battle that had him painted as unfit because of his sexuality-and the subsequent changes in his love life and general happiness and interest level afterward. I know it sounds complicated but it's really, really not. This is a very simple book. The writing style is simple, the plot (which is barely even there, it's more of a gradual progression of events with a total lack of conflict) is simple and while the book does come off as rather charming it's almost a compete 180 from Lipman's other books. The whole thing kind of has the feel of a novella too it (think "Shopgirl" with less emotional depth and poignancy) including the length. Despite its deceptive 300 page total this is a very small book with large text and huge margins.
There's nothing really bad about this novel, but it really was not what I expected from Lipman. It's true that I've always enjoyed her books written in first person better than those written in third (and this one is in third) but that's not even really the issue. This book just reads like a different author altogether wrote it. As it stands on its own it's a cute, charming little book with a lot of snappy talk too it that I did enjoy but it doesn't really compare to Isabel's Bed,The Inn at Lake Devine or The Pursuit of Alice Thrift.
If I'd never read anything else by Lipman I'd say four stars, but with my experience of her other novels I have to admit to being disappointed by this one with its lack of detail and emotional characterization.
Three stars. I'd wait for the paperback version folks, or get this one from the library before committing to buy.
Henry has no desire to become his ex-wife's buddy or knight in shining armor. When he visits Denise, however, he notices photos of Thalia, his stepdaughter whom he hasn't seen since she was a little girl. Much to his shock, he realizes that Thalia works in the salon where he has his hair cut. Henry decides to reacquaint himself with this now lovely twenty-nine year old woman, who is an aspiring actress and a delightful human being. They soon become fast friends, and Henry does his utmost to make up for the decades during which he and Thalia were separated.
Elinor Lipman is the undisputed queen of the contemporary comedy of manners, and once again, she serves up a frothy and witty soufflé with farcical overtones, a somewhat silly and lightweight plot, romantic entanglements, and amusing banter. The author never takes her subject matter too seriously. Instead, she has fun getting her offbeat cast of characters into and out of outlandish situations. Her theme is the importance of relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, and any other configuration that works. During the course of this warm and witty novel, Henry finally lets go of the past and embraces the future with renewed optimism and joy. He finally experiences the great satisfaction of loving someone special and being loved in return.
Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
If you've ever read popular humorous novels or short stories from the 1950s or 1960s that feel totally dated now -- like "Coffee, Tea or Me?" or stuff by Bennett Cerf --- then you'll have flashbacks when you open this book. From its obvious plot lines with happy endings to its cliched characters and their easy lives, this book is the type of fluff that's been churned out for decades by hack writers. And yet, based on skimming some of the other reviews, I've learned that author Elinor Lipman has a devoted fan base and has won prestigious awards. Well, not for this book.
I guess it's a satire, but the humor is so lame that you'll just shake your head. Might as well watch a TV sitcom.
Other reviewers have covered the plot, so I won't re-hash. I'll just say that it has just about every cliche you can think of for its location and time -- and I've lived on the Upper West Side in NYC, where the majority of the story occurs. Key characters: gay ex-husband, new boyfriend for gay ex-husband; ex-wife, now widowed after death of Husband #3, seeks to reconnect with gay ex-Husband #2; wannabe actress daughter; B-list movie star who is an idiot but turns out to have a heart of gold; lots of men and women having affairs; lots of good meals and lovely apartments because everyone is rich. And lots of happy endings, such as ex-wife gets to keep expensive apartment even though she was originally cut out of the will on a bit of technicality; and actress daughter sleeps with at least four men in a few months (the period in which the book takes place), with no negative consequences except that she gets happily pregnant and married to the right guy. Hard to believe a female author wrote that last plot line, but that's the strange mentality of this book.