The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

A main character in The Three Weissmanns of Westport is Betty, a 75-year-old woman whose husband leaves her for another woman after almost fifty years of marriage.  After living an upper-middle-class lifestyle (what most of us would consider definitely upper-class) in a spacious New York City apartment with a doorman, she finds herself in the middle of divorce negotiations, temporarily without funds – and unable to adopt to the restricted lifestyle which seems likely to be hers forever.  Her idea of economy is a $200 bracelet, and she considers an expensive suit and earrings from Tiffany’s essential purchases for a visit to the divorce lawyers.  In addition to her financial distress, she misses her husband terribly.

Fortunately, a generous relative offers her and her two middle-aged daughters free housing in a run-down cottage near the water in Westport, Connecticut.  Miranda, the emotional, impulsive sister, faces a financial and career crisis after years as a successful literary agent.  Never married but longing for a family of her own, she is enthralled when she meets a handsome younger man who is divorced and has an adorable little boy.  Annie, the other sister, is the financially conservative, introverted librarian who commutes each day to her job in the city and worries about her impractical mother and sister.  Annie dreams about a well-known novelist whom she met when he did a reading at her library, but she seems likely to be disappointed in this fantasy.  Then there are others, including a semiretired lawyer named Roberts, who may be possible romantic interests for the sisters.  The love lives of Miranda and Annie keep the reader fascinated right up to the last page.

The plot and characters invite comparisons to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, according to the book jacket notes and to many reviews.  I read Austen’s novel about ten years ago and recently read a summary of it, but my memories are rather vague, so I can attest that familiarity with Austen’s work is by no means necessary for the reader to enjoy this novel.

(Helen Snow, Information Services)

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