A Novel

eBook - 2001
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A warmly humorous, poignant novel about a young man, his mother's e-mail, and the often surprising path of infidelity. Henry Shaw, a high school senior, is about as comfortable with his family as any seventeen-year-old can be. His father, Kevin, teaches history with a decidedly socialist tinge at the Chicago private school Henry and his sister attend. His mother, Beth, who plays the piano in a group specializing in antique music, is a loving, attentive wife and parent. Henry even accepts the offbeat behavior of his thirteen-year-old sister, Elvira, who is obsessed with Civil War reenactments and insists on dressing in handmade Union uniforms at inopportune times. When he stumbles on his mother's e-mail account, however, Henry realizes that all is not as it seems. There, under the name Liza38, a name that Henry innocently established for her, is undeniable evidence that his mother is having an affair with one Richard Polloco, a violin maker and unlikely paramour who nonetheless has a very appealing way with words and a romantic spirit that, in Henry's estimation, his own father woefully lacks. Against his better judgment, Henry charts the progress of his mother's infatuation, her feelings of euphoria, of guilt, and of profound, touching confusion. His knowledge of Beth's secret life colors his own tentative explorations of love and sex with the ephemeral Lily, and casts a new light on the arguments-usually focused on Elvira-in which his parents regularly indulge. Over the course of his final year of high school, Henry observes each member of the family, trying to anticipate when they will find out about the infidelity and what the knowledge will mean to each of them. Henry's observations, set down ten years after that fateful year, are much more than the "old story" of adultery his mother deemed her affair to be. A novel full of gentle humor and rich insights into the nature of love and the deep, mysterious bonds that hold families together.
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 2001.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780385721752
Characteristics: 273 p. ; 21 cm.


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Sep 21, 2014

Henry, the family's 17 year old computer nerd, reads his mother's email, and gradually realizes she's having an affair. He decides to watch how it's affecting the family. His father, Kevin, teaches at the private school Henry and his younger sister Elvira attend, and seems clueless. Elvira, a Civil War buff who dresses in uniform for more than weekend reenactments, concerns him. Mother Beth is a private music teacher, and performer. She meets her lover, a violin maker, at his cabin, where they practice music together, even taking her children there sometimes. How long, Henry wonders, can this farce last? Should he force the issue? On a family vacation to a Civil War "battle," a crisis over Elvira's "coming out" shows the family where their values really lie. An unusual coming of age story full of not just angst, but much gentle humor. Henry looks back on the family's story 10 years later.

hermlou Feb 23, 2010

Teenager Henry Shaw discovers his mother's email letters to a fellow musician, and he realizes they are having an affair. This depresses him, and he observes the members of his family carefully to see how they are affected. There are some family problems, but the people support each other and get through them together. I kept wondering where this book was heading, for it meandered a lot. I preferred Hamilton's book "A Map of the World".

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