Audrey, a British chick, meets American lawyer Joel Litvinoff at a party in London, and for a date, Audrey takes him to meet her Polish immigrant parents in their tiny, airless, awful apartment in some distant village. When they arrive back in London, she invites him to bed, and after love-making, he proposes and she accepts, and off they go to America, NYC.
He becomes famous for his Socialism, defense of the poor and downtrodden, his activism in human and civil rights, and Audrey is right there at his side.
So far, so good, except that she, having adopted an attitude of British coolness and distance in order to distinguish herself from his hoard of fans and camp followers, finds that after a time, her persona facade has become who she is. And who she is is awful. She is distant from her two daughters, and indifferent housekeeper and meal provider.
“Audrey had never evinced the slightest sentimentality about children. Insofar as she had recognized them as independent category of personhood, she had tended to think of them as trainee humans. Inadequate adults.”
She is a strong-mouthed pot smoker, and truly disdains her older daughter, a young woman who has struggled with her weight and self image all her life, becoming servile to her mother in an attempt to win her approval. The younger is a rebel, spent four years in Cuba, and when we meet her, is working with an organization for disadvantaged teen girls, and is always on the outs with her mother.
After one case of Joel’s, who is called in to defend a mother who was involved in an armed bank robbery, the mother asks him to do something about her son, 7 years old (I think), waiting in her apartment for her return. He and Audrey go there, and for some reason, Audrey falls in love with this kid. They take him in as a foster, and she cares so much more for him than for her own children. So much so that she ignores, and enables his growing criminal behavior, as he becomes an addict.
The plot involves the older married sister trying to get pregnant with a man who admits he choose her to marry even though she was not particularly attractive and obese because they shared the same ultra left political values. It becomes clear that she never really loved him, but was grateful someone wanted to marry her, and he never really loved her.
The younger daughter, of this completely atheistic Jewish family, somehow becomes enamored of orthadox Jewish life, and begins exploring this lifestyle, which infuriates her mother.
The father, at age 72, has a massive stroke, and is in a coma for 8 or nine months, during which the older daughter meets someone who seems to have fallen in love with her for herself, the younger daughter becomes deeper involved in Jewish orthodoxy, the drug addict foster son attends a rehab for the nth time but this time it seems to take, and the wife discovers that all was not as it seem with the husband when a young woman comes forward to advise her of her long term affair with the husband which has produced a son, now four years old.
A book filled with characters for whom this jaded, cynical reader just really had no patience for, and situations for which one already can see the outcome, but which kept me turning pages anyway. Kind of like a good gossip about which you have nothing to contribute and don’t know any of the gossipees, but are eager to hear more.