If Cathleen Schine's "The New Yorkers" were a movie, it would be directed by Nora Ephron...
“The New Yorkers”
by Cathleen Schine
Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
290 pp, $24
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If Cathleen Schine’s “The New Yorkers” were a movie, it would be directed by Nora Ephron and would feature lots of fuzzy sweaters and adorable close-ups of dogs. Breezy and cozy, it’s the story of a group of neighbors living on an Upper West Side block that seems to have more than its share of unmarried dog owners. Like a square dance with canines in tow, the characters parade around, pair up, change partners and promenade some more. It’s a pleasant read, though never particularly compelling.
Schine, whose previous novels include “The Love Letter” and “Alice in Bed,” deftly interweaves her characters, creating a tight little world on a city street. Jody, a sensible music teacher with a sweet-natured pit bull named Beatrice, falls for Everett, a divorced dad who only has eyes for a confident young copy editor named Polly — or, to be more specific, for Polly’s puppy Howdy. Then there’s Polly’s brother George, a bartender who’s got his own love troubles; Simon, an “elderly” 46-year-old who lives for his autumn hunting trips; Doris, a sour-faced neighbor who’s remarkably intolerant of dogs; and Jamie, who owns two cairn terriers and the cafe at which all the aforementioned people tend to gather.
All this is conveyed by an occasionally self-conscious (“Perhaps you’re wondering what happened to Doris and her plans for canine reform … “) but agreeable narrator, and all eventually gets resolved in just the right Meg-Ryan-and-Tom-Hanks way. Schine occasionally lets a few barbs mar the tale’s niceness, particularly in the portrayal of the slightly bitchy Polly, who wonders why Everett likes to talk about his daughter so much. Ultimately “The New Yorkers,” with its cute chapter-head dog drawings (by Leanne Shapton), is a sweet if fleeting tribute to the way neighborhoods and dogs bring people together; by its end, you can almost see the credits roll.