Friday, January 11, 2013
An Available Man, by Hilma Wolitzer
Edward Schuyler is a recently widowed middle school science teacher. Still grieving for his wife and adjusting to living alone, he is chagrined when he women start calling very soon--something his late wife Bee had predicted.
Edward moves beyond chagrin to horror when his stepchildren, with whom he is very close, place a personal ad for him in the New York Review of Books (the fact that they refer to him as "balding" contributes to his horror). Yet he calls to set up dates with a few of the 46 women who respond--the dates are not entirely successful, but they are entertaining. On his fourth dating attempt, he is shocked to find that the woman he meets at MoMA is actually his former fiancee, who left him at the altar more than 30 years earlier. While he is at first angry and sure that he wants nothing to do with her, she undertakes some mild stalking and they end up as a couple.
Wolitzer suggests that things will go badly with this renewed relationship--and they eventually do, though not nearly as badly as I thought they would. In fact, the end of the book fizzles, with Edward's life a little too neatly wrapped up and tied with a ribbon. Nonetheless, An Available Man is a fun read, especially for someone in Edward's age cohort (like me). If you're planning a winter vacation in tropical climes, this book would be a great beach read.
Side note: The old flame who seems like she is going to go "Fatal Attraction" on Edward is named Laurel Ann, which happens to be my name. When your name is relatively unusual, it's definitely an odd experience to read about a villain who shares that name!
He supposed that Sylvia was kind of attractive, especially from a distance, and even ageless in a way. But he wondered what she'd looked like before and why she'd chosen to expunge what must have been her recognizable self. A line from Yeats came into his head: But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face. Probably it was Bee who'd read that to him in the first place, or perhaps it only reminded him of her, of the changes he would miss seeing.