Elinor Lipman’s latest novel is a wry, warm tale of romance and mystery with a colorful family thrown in.
“On Turpentine Lane”
by Elinor Lipman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 305 pp., $25
If my life ever gets rewritten as a rom-com novel, I’d want Elinor Lipman to do it; she has a way of crafting books so utterly charming that you want to set up residence inside them. And yet, in a seemingly effortless balance, she’s never saccharine, but writes in a wry, warm, we’re-all-friends-here-so-let’s-have-a-drink tone.
Her 11th novel, “On Turpentine Lane,” follows a pleasantly familiar format: a wisecracking, likable heroine ditches her useless boyfriend, finds love in her sweet officemate and deals with her colorful family. Faith Frankel, a thank-you-notes writer for a small-town prep school, is 32 and engaged, sort of, to man-child Stuart, who “started using words like potentiality and wholeness after an emergency appendectomy” and went to find himself by crossing the country on foot.
Meanwhile, co-worker Nick cutely takes up residence in Faith’s spare bedroom and a benign mystery unfolds in Faith’s newly purchased bungalow — “a little doll house” with a claw-foot tub, vintage wall paper and a few secrets.
The author of “On Turpentine Lane” will appear at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, at Third Place Books 17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park. Free. Info: 206-366-3333 or thirdplacebooks.com.
Nonetheless, Lipman makes said mystery — which appears to involve dead babies and a murder plot — seems more quaintly screwball than truly threatening, and everything works out delightfully by the end. Along the way, we’re treated to Lipman’s effervescent dialogue (the book’s mostly conversation, all of it highly eavesdroppable), a plot in which everybody seems to turn up at Faith’s front door at the exact wrong — or right — moment, and a group of people with whom it’s great fun to hang. Like all of Lipman’s books, “On Turpentine Lane” quickly becomes a friend.
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