This is one of the funniest books I have had the pleasure of reading in a long time. Funny as in a chuckle or outright laugh on almost every page. Author Hilma Wolitzer excels at delivering witty remarks as she wryly observes the contemporary social scene. (We know it ‘s contemporary because speed-dating is there.) The witticisms keep coming back to me when I am nowhere near the book, like funny lines from an old Woody Allen movie.
Main character Edward Schuyler is a personable, newly widowed man who grieves for his departed wife Bea and finds himself longing for the loving companionship he once had. At 62 and teaching science in a New York high school, he has no plans for starting to date again, but his stepchildren jump the gun. They place an ad that sets things moving almost before the ink is dry.
Dating at a later age has its own terrors and pitfalls, and Edward experiences a variety of encounters, planned and unplanned: numerous dinner dates where any chemistry is very much absent;well-meaning but depressing tries by friends to “fix him up,” and an unnerving scene in which a close friend’s wife tries to seduce him in the bathroom at a party. Eventually an old love reappears to shake things up even more.
This story will appeal to any of us who face life alone in later years, while yearning for remembered closeness. The search for new love is played out against the everyday background of Edward’s life, including students who often disappoint and sometimes please him, solitary bird-watching trips to get his mind off things, and relationships with the family he inherited when he married. This includes a needy stepdaughter who can’t rid herself of the wrong boyfriend; amiable stepson Nick and his wife Amanda, and Bea’s elderly, eccentric mother, Gladys. All are believable as they, too, grieve the loss of Bea. Even pets are a part of the scene, as Edward must deal with the decline of his elderly dog.
Author Wolitzer excels at portraying Edward’s reactions, both physical and intellectual, to the women that he meets, a talent requiring lots of insight on her part. While dealing with a somber life experience, this novel still has much to applaud about the joys in life, large and small, especially when they come unexpectedly.