Sunday, July 17, 2011

The False Friend, by Myla Goldberg, and The Family Man, by Elinor Lipman

Readers, your summer reading list: Myla Goldberg's "The False Friend," and Elinor Lipman's "The Family Man."

Goldberg's newest offering is the story of Celia Durst's rediscovery. The False Friend explores the vagaries of memory, and the phenomenon of how, if events are recalled over and over, over a long period of time, they become fact -- whether or not they actually happened. Celia Durst, after twenty years, is finally ready to admit and explore what she now believes is the truth: that when, as a 10-year-old, she told the police she saw her friend disappear into a stranger's car, she was lying, and that her friend actually fell into a deep hole along a forest path. As Celia returns to her childhood home and tries to set the record straight, she discovers surprising and unsavory truths about her ten-year-old self. Beautiful, haunting language, intriguing, nuanced story. Another great Myla Goldberg offering.

My most recent literary mistake: because the "The Family Man's" author's name, Elinor Lipman, brought to mind an older woman, I figured the novel would be a snoozer. It doesn't escape me that I'm an older woman. Embarrassing and ironic. Lipman's book sat on my shelf for months, as I pushed it back down to the bottom of my to-read pile again and again.

Luckily, I opened it just in time to enjoy one of the most delicious summer reads ever. Lipman's work brings to mind the novels of another master storyteller: Jonathan Tropper. Like Tropper, Lipman paints quirky, deeply flawed families and then backs them into corners, which prompts them to do and say the funniest things. In "The Family Man," Attorney Henry Archer is a gay, ex-husband who, after 25-years, is reunited with the non-biological daughter of his brief marriage. And that's all I'm going to tell you, because the twists and turns of the plot, the authentic, smart dialogue and fast pacing all make this a great summer read.


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