Mother’s Day may have passed, but you can (and should) keep the spirit going by diving in to Cathleen Schine’s wonderful new novel, The Three Weissmans of Westport. Reminiscent of Anne Tyler at her best, Schine is a deft writer who blends humor, social observation and a real understanding of humankind’s foibles and strengths into a story that is engaging, touching and always entertaining.
Betty Weissman is a content and well-to-do 75-year-old woman who lives in a choice New York apartment with her husband, Joseph, a good and congenial man — who, because of forces he seems unable to understand, takes up with a scheming younger woman and asks Betty for a divorce. Perhaps worse, his new woman wants the apartment, so he expects Betty to move out. She does, setting up house in a ramshackle cottage in Westport, Connecticut with her two down-on-their-luck daughters (one an empty-nester mom herself who’s been unlucky in love, the other a once-hotshot agent who’s lost her business), and the three set about figuring out the next stage of their lives, without the money, social connections and security they’d always taken for granted.
I may have connected a tad more than some readers, because I’m the same age as the Weissman daughters, my mother’s the same age as Betty, my father is named Joseph (although he’d never be such a witless cad), and I grew up in the same sort of social-educational milieu. But I can’t imagine anyone not connecting with this Austenish story of manners in modern times… and believe me, Pasadena is chock-full of Bettys, Josephs and their middle-aged children.
The Three Weissmans of Westport, by Cathleen Schine ($25). Available at all local booksellers or at amazon.com.