Date Published: February 1, 2011
ISBN: 978- 0312680527
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Publisher’s Book Summary: Betty Weissmann has just been dumped by her husband of forty-eight years. Exiled from her elegant New York apartment by her husband’s mistress, she and her two middle-aged daughters, Miranda and Annie, regroup in a run-down Westport, Connecticut, beach cottage. In Schine’s playful and devoted homage to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the impulsive sister is Miranda, a literary agent entangled in a series of scandals, and the more pragmatic sister is Annie, a library director, who feels compelled to move in and watch over her capricious mother and sister. Schine’s witty, wonderful novel “is simply full of pleasure: the pleasure of reading, the pleasure of Austen, and the pleasure that the characters so rightly and humorously pursue….An absolute triumph” (The Cleveland Plain Dealer).
My Thoughts: Poor Betty Weissmann is 75 years old when she finds out Joseph, her husband, wants a divorce after 50 years of marriage. He also wants Betty to move out of the Central Park West apartment she has painstakingly decorated and cared for all these years. Joseph’s young, conniving, new girlfriend, Felicity has convinced him that he’s doing the kind and generous thing making Betty move out of their large, beautiful apartment.
Betty isn’t the only woman in her family in the midst of a life crisis. Her passionate, melo-dramatic and self-centered daughter, Miranda’s life is a mess. Her literary agency, the center of her life, is in ruins and she’s heading towards bankruptcy after a journalist discovered that some of the memoirs Miranda’s been promoting, the bread-and-butter of her business, are fraudulent. Angry and humiliated, Miranda is anxious to get out of New York City.
Betty’s other daughter, Annie, practical, smart and reasonable has a stable job as a librarian with a small subscription library. But she’s not without her flaws and faults. She’s been divorced for a long time and with her grown sons off in college, she’s feeling restless and unhappy. Annie, also a constant worrier, is concerned about how Betty and Miranda will manage. The three dysfunctional women retreat to Westport, CT where Betty’s Cousin Lou has offered them a cottage on his property. The cottage is more of a shack, according to the women, but it’s on the water. Still, Betty and Miranda have plenty to say about their new home, despite having no where else to go.
Cousin Lou is loud, boisterous and a braggart. He’s also generous. He offers a refreshing contrast to the rampant greed infecting many of the characters including his wife and her gold-digging young friends and Joseph’s girlfriend, Felicity. There are few dull moments in the lives of Betty, Miranda and Annie in Westport. They meet some very interesting people, some more likable than others, while they attempt to straighten out their lives. Betty and Miranda are particularly self-centered in the first half of the book. Annie isn’t without her selfish moments but, if not for her kind and giving nature, Betty and Miranda would have very little, if any, money to live on. It takes Betty and Miranda some time to see this but the flagrant greed of other characters and the three women’s growing love for and understanding of each other helps them work out their issues.
Cathleen Schine’s writing is humorous, witty and compelling. Betty, Miranda and especially Annie, come to life through Ms. Schine’s words. She also displays a talent for biting social commentary that reminds me of some of Jane Austen’s writing about society in her day. The Three Weissmann’s of Westport can be read as lighter women’s fiction but I there’s a deeper side to this story as it progresses as the women are reminded that life isn‘t just fun frolicking. Betty, Miranda and Annie are forced to confront their faults and behavior and deal with some of life’s heavier issues. They finally realize that there’s more to life than money, materialism and appearances. It’s too bad this lesson comes at a high cost.
I highly recommend this novel. It’s fun and entertaining but also powerful and captivating. I laughed out loud at times and almost cried a few times. I enjoyed The Three Weissmann’s of Westport from beginning to end. It make's a good choice for book clubs because it offers several areas of discussion including mother/daughter relationships, marriage and women remaining single, male/female relationships when one side has children, divorce and how it's handled.