Book serendipity can occur, even among well-worn booksellers. Last year I picked up Richard Price's Lush Life and I couldn't put it down. For at least forty pages I kept thinking "what is this...?", and then I was hooked. Well, Heller's book didn't even give me the chance to ask (or wonder) -- I felt myself pulled by a rip-tide of development; and by the time I came up for air. Actually, I never came up; I read it straight through.
The story really isn't done justice in the re-telling: In the early 1960's, a young couple find each other at a party. They are by turns very “modern” and oddly interdependent. Almost on a whim, they find themselves married. He becomes a lawyer, she becomes his wife. Several pages later, 40 years have gone by and he is a famed criminal defense lawyer and she is his unfettered, outspokenly liberal, inexcusably aggressive wife. You don't like him (but you know him); you don't like her (but you've known her). Without knowing what hit you, you are swept into the depth, the moral base, of their family life.
Heller, whose earlier book was Notes on a Scandal, is perhaps the most fascinating writer to come up in a long, long time. When asked the inevitable "who is she like?" I have to say she's a seamless combination of Philip Roth and George Eliot. And that's a conversation stopper.
-- Charline Spektor