Henry Holt, 2013 (2013)
Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle
hen Joanie (beloved wife of Bob, mother of Anne and grandmother of fifteen-year-old Julia and eighteen-year-old Teddy) dies unexpectedly in her sleep, her whole family is devastated. Bob's health is such that Anne must bring him to live with her family against his will. Not a situation that her husband Hugh is pleased about. As the younger members of the family pack up and dispose of the contents of his house in preparation for his move to Anne and Hugh's, a battered copy of an old book is found under the mattress in Joanie and Bob's bed. Julia claims it. The book is
The Sex Cure
, written many years before about people in their town of Cooperstown who were having affairs with people who in many cases were married. Because names were changed only slightly, with situations unchanged, it was easy to figure out who was being written about.
ob loved his wife Joanie, but he had affairs with anyone he met who was willing, and the book caused a problem for him at first because he was afraid that he was in it. Joanie had purchased the book, read it conspicuously, leaving it lying out all over the house, and allowed their teenage daughter Anne to read it, much to Bob's dismay. For years after that Joanie used the book to keep Bob from straying, and although this worked well, his relationship with his daughter was damaged and never really recovered. Anne isn't at all happy that she now has to take him in, and Bob is equally unhappy about having to move to her house.
revisits the events of the days surrounding the publication of the book, and looks at each member of the family and their present romantic problems. We learn much about each person's relationships with others, including, but by no means limited to members of their family. Julia has two close friends who are boys. Neither of them are boyfriends, but she is no longer happy about this situation. The three of them have spent a lot of time at her grandparents' house playing board games and inventing a language of their own, with which they can put down other people or talk about drinking or smoking without being understood.
nne's husband Hugh has gotten involved in a totally atypical affair with the mother of one of his school's young students. He has never even been tempted to stray outside his marriage, but Anne has grown distant, and he finds himself so strongly attracted to the other woman that he can't control himself, even to do what he realizes might destroy his family.
ooperstown is the location of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and sports do play a small but significant role in the story. Hugh and Teddy love baseball. Teddy is on his school team, and Teddy's large baseball card collection has been encouraged by his father. Julia and her friends are more into tennis, and their participation on the high school's tennis team is also important, with the title of the book being a play on words,
being a tennis score as well as the theme of the book.
he story being told in
is interesting and the characters are believable, but as I read, I found myself really annoyed by the secret language. I had to make a list of the words with their approximate meanings to refer to as I read, or I would not have understood much of the conversation between Julia and her friends. It also seemed to me that none of the men depicted in this book had any backbone, and they all seemed immature, from the teenage boys to Hugh and Bob. I had a hard time liking either Anne or her daughter Julia; in fact, we were not even really introduced to Anne until a third of the way through the book. As we get to know the characters better, they do become more likeable, but I had a hard time getting past those bad first impressions, and the made-up language continued to plague me throughout.
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