When Joseph Weissmann divorced his wife, he was seventy-eight years old and she was seventy-five. He announced his decision in the kitchen of their apartment on the tenth floor of a large, graceful Central Park West building built at the turn of the century, the original white tiles of the kitchen still gleaming on the walls around them. Joseph, known as Joe to his colleagues at work, but always called Joseph by his wife, said the words “irreconcilable differences,” and saw real confusion in his wife’s eyes.
Irreconcilable differences? she said. Of course there are irreconcilable differences. What on earth does that have to do with divorce? – from The Three Weissmanns of Westport, page 1 –
Betty Weissmann may be seventy-five years old and used to being taken care of by her wealthy husband Joseph, but he underestimates her pluck, resiliency, and the blind loyalty of her daughters. Banished from the home she has shared with Joseph for almost 50 years, Betty packs up her things and moves into a beach side cottage in Westport, Connecticut (owned by Betty’s eccentric cousin Lou) with her daughters Miranda and Annie. Annie, a librarian, is the eldest and most practical of the daughters. Miranda, a 49 year old literary agent, is reeling from a business crisis when it is discovered that the authors she represents are fabricating their memoirs. Together the three women descend upon Westport, determined to make the best of their situations and support each other along the way.
The Three Weissmanns of Westport is a funny, poignant, sometimes heartbreaking novel filled with memorable and quirky characters. Betty bravely faces her impending divorce, preferring to think of herself as a widow rather than a divorcee.
In the days to come, not only was Betty merry, but she insisted that she was, literally, a widow.
“Poor, dear Joseph,” she said when they finally accepted Cousin Lou’s invitation to dinner. “God rest his soul.” – from The Three Weissmanns of Westport –
Miranda’s zest for life is only temporarily dampened by her business woes. She has a history of passionate love affairs which end in disaster, and is a bit of a diva. And so when she sets her sights on a man much younger than she, it is only a matter of time before things get interesting.
Annie works as a librarian, is divorced and is mourning the fact that her two sons have grown up and away from her. She dreads moving to the coast with her mother and sister (who exuberantly embrace the small, run down beach cottage). She longs to isolate herself with her books, tires of being the responsible older sister, and bemoans the aging process.
Together, the three women forge a bond that elevates them past failed romances, unexpected revelations, and family crises. Cathleen Schine fills her novel with humor, the simple joy of sun drenched days and bird song, and the comfort of friendships. I loved the contrary, yet loving relationship between the two sisters; and the realistic, yet poignant connection between a mother and her children. What Schine does, quite elegantly, is make the reader care about the characters. She exposes their flaws, unearths their fears and vulnerabilities, and in doing so, makes them real. I found myself cheering Betty, Miranda and Annie onward, wanting them to realize their dreams and find their happiness.
The Three Weissmanns of Westport is a story of family connection, of searching for love, of falling down and getting back up again. This is a satisfying novel which will appeal to those readers who like their characters quirky and who find humor in life despite disaster. Cathleen Schine writes fantastic women’s fiction.
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