Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Three Weissmann's of Westport by Cathleen Schine

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

Date Published: February 1, 2011
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 304
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.


  1. For whatever reason, I had thought of this as a frilly beach read when it first came out but then I started hearing so many great things about it. I need to keep this one in mind. It sounds really good.

  2. You made this one sound really good. I like "change of life" stories where the characters are challenged in a way they never expected to be.

    How are you feeling? It's been awhile since I stopped by. Work has been a real pill and then there was vacation without a computer. Just now catching up. Hope all is well.

  3. It sounds like all the members of this family are having some kind of crisis. The book sounds engrossing.

  4. Wonderful review! I enjoyed this book too.

  5. So glad to hear you liked this one so much. I really enjoyed it and we did get a great discussion out of it when my book club read it. I think those of us that are fans of Austens and were able to compare and contrast it to Sense and Sensibility really enjoyed it.

  6. Nit sure why, but i always thought this was chick-lit. Now that I know it isn't it sounds like a story I would really enjoy. May see if the audio is available at the library.

  7. I have been wanting to read this one for a long time, and think that it sounds excellent. Books that make me laugh and cry are just the ticket for me right now, and I loved what you had to say about this one. How sad that Betty is going through this at such a late time in her life! Thanks for the excellent review. I will be looking for this one!

  8. Hurray! I have a copy of this from last year's library book sale. It sounds like a great summer read and I appreciate the book club suggestion. I'll bring it to the next meeting so others can take a look, too.

  9. You'd think that 50 years of marriage would net a divorcee quite a bit of money!!!

  10. I really enjoyed this book and want to read more by the author!