The Three Weissmanns of Westport
By Cathleen Schine
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. 292 pgs. Fiction.
Sense and Sensibility lives again! You remember that the original featured three women who were forced to retire to the country and practice economizing while various love interests flitted in and out of their lives? In The Three Weissmanns however, the cast is not the three damsels of Austen’s 19th century England, but a modern-day family of Jewish New Yorkers who find themselves in similar economic woes. Betty is the family matriarch and after 48 years of marriage she finds herself being divorced from her 70-ish husband for “irreconcilable differences” (translation=another woman). Feeling completely at a loss she gathers her two middle-aged, (and single) daughters to her bosom and retreats to a dilapidated beach cottage on loan from wealthy cousin Lou where she waits for her husband to come to his good senses.
Adventures abound at the cottage and various bachelors are plentiful, ranging from the dashing young theater actor who rescues Miranda from the surf to the wealthy author who intermittently pursues the shyer and more responsible Annie. But the cast grows ever larger, due to the lavish parties hosted by cousin Lou, and the more people to which the Weissmanns are introduced, the more complicated their lives become. Until, as in good Austen form, most things manage to right themselves into a satisfactory ending. Austen would likely not approve the liberal interpretation of her original plot, but the story is nicely written, humorous and enticingly bitter-sweet.