Fin & Lady

( 67 )


From the author of The Three Weissmanns of Westport, a wise, clever story of New York in the '60s

It's 1964. Eleven-year-old Fin and his glamorous, worldly, older half sister, Lady, have just been orphaned, and Lady, whom Fin hasn't seen in six years, is now his legal guardian and his only hope. That means Fin is uprooted from a small dairy farm in rural Connecticut to Greenwich Village, smack in the middle of the swinging '60s. He soon learns...

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Fin & Lady

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From the author of The Three Weissmanns of Westport, a wise, clever story of New York in the '60s

It's 1964. Eleven-year-old Fin and his glamorous, worldly, older half sister, Lady, have just been orphaned, and Lady, whom Fin hasn't seen in six years, is now his legal guardian and his only hope. That means Fin is uprooted from a small dairy farm in rural Connecticut to Greenwich Village, smack in the middle of the swinging '60s. He soon learns that Lady--giddy, careless, urgent, and obsessed with being free--is as much his responsibility as he is hers.
So begins Fin & Lady, the lively, spirited new novel by Cathleen Schine, the author of the bestselling The Three Weissmanns of Westport. Fin and Lady lead their lives against the background of the '60s, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War--Lady pursued by ardent, dogged suitors, Fin determined to protect his impulsive sister from them and from herself.
From a writer The New York Times has praised as "sparkling, crisp, clever, deft, hilarious, and deeply affecting," Fin & Lady is a comic, romantic love story: the story of a brother and sister who must form their own unconventional family in increasingly unconventional times.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Young Fin is just eleven years old, but in 1964 Greenwich Village, even pre-teens grow up quickly. In Fin's case, that process accelerates dramatically because after he arrives in Vietnam era hippiedom with his freedom-loving older half-sister Lady. In this new fiction by Cathleen Schine (The Three Weissmanns of Westport; The Love Letter), our fledgling hero not only matures himself; he learns to protect his impulsive, sometimes naïve sibling. A wise, clever, tenderly delivered novel about learning the ways of the world.

The Los Angeles Times

In this bildungsroman set against the swinging '60s, a young boy named Fin is orphaned and must move from his quiet Connecticut dairy farm to live with his much older half sister, Lady, in Greenwich Village, where things will never be the same for him.
The Plain Dealer

Narrator Twomey, who has a pleasing voice, deftly manages several European accents and reads at a quick pace that keeps the action moving along.
New York Journal of Books

Cathleen Schine's witty, wry prose is well served by actress Anne Twomey, who deftly brings to life Ms. Schine's warmly affecting story of two souls searching for an identity in New York's Greenwich Village in the 1960s.
Library Journal - Audio
In this madcap novel, Schine (The Three Weissmanns of Westport) paints a fractured picture of the second half of the 1960s in New York's Greenwich Village. Fin, 11 years old and newly orphaned, leaves his rural Connecticut dairy farm home and comes to live with his half-sister, Lady. Only six years older than Fin, Lady is neurotic, capricious, and unstable. She enrolls Fin in a progressive school in which the children study Bob Dylan album notes, play with blocks, and deconstruct the academic hierarchy by first-naming everyone, even teachers. One only realizes by book's end that Fin is telling the story to his own ward. The author interview at book's end is of interest. Anne Twomey brings a thoughtful competence to the narration. VERDICT This book is recommended to Schine fans and those who enjoy 1960s-set fiction and books told from the viewpoint of young characters. ["A good summer read for those who like their family dramas with more bite than sweetness," read the review of the Sarah Crichton: Farrar hc, LJ 7/13.]—David Faucheux, Louisiana Audio Information & Reading Svc., Lafayette
The Washington Post - Wendy Smith
Wonderfully funny though they often are, Cathleen Schine's novels are steeped in sadness…Schine knows that laughter isn't just an escape from life's sorrows, but also a recognition of them…[Fin & Lady] is, in essence, a novel about the choices we make in creating a family and about the inevitable limits of freedom…There are good wisecracks in the Capri chapters, but Schine's wit is muted in favor of unabashed sentiment…her sincerity here suits both her protagonists' youth and the impassioned era of their joint odyssey. The 1960s seem a less than ideal setting for a comedy of manners, and indeed this is not really a comedy. But Schine conveys the rapidly shifting mores of the '60s, as well as the slowly unfolding understanding of these appealingly vulnerable characters.
The New York Times Book Review - Christopher Benfey
…[a] bittersweet elegy for Greenwich Village in the 1960s…Schine…is aware of how much of this terrain—the available heiress, the domineering father, the three suitors, the orphaned boy, the enchanted island, even the disgruntled maid—is familiar. But, like comic writers before her from Shakespeare to Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh, she skillfully plays with the conventions and the reader's expectations…[a] wise and wistful comic novel…
Publishers Weekly
Schine’s new novel (after Alice in Bed) is an entertaining, sometimes perplexing exploration of family bonds and bondage. When Fin is orphaned at the age of 11, Lady, his half-sister, takes him in, pulling him away from the dairy farm in rural Connecticut to the Greenwich Village of the mid-1960s. Lady has always been a shining figure to Fin, who was too young to understand the falling-out she had with their father. Now, Fin and Lady form an unconventional family, set against a tumultuous political and social climate. At times the novel has echoes of Auntie Mame; at others, Dawn Powell. The narrator’s voice is used so sparingly as to intrude when it is used, and the reader gets ahead of the story in figuring out who this shadowy figure is in the tale. The bond between Fin and Lady is strong, but the story itself breaks little new ground and doesn’t reveal anything new about the era or the longings of those experiencing it. Schine writes lively dialogue and excels at sensory detail, especially early on, before the plot becomes predictable, as the novel wavers precariously between satiric comedy-of-manners and something more serious. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Agency. (July)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Three Weissmanns of Westport

“Full of invention, wit, and wisdom that can bear comparison to Austen’s own.” —The New York Review of Books

“A clever, frothy novel . . . Schine playfully probes the lies, self-deceptions, and honorable hearts of her characters.” —The New Yorker

The New York Review of Books
Full of invention, wit, and wisdom that can bear comparison to Austen's own.
The New Yorker
A clever, frothy novel...Schine playfully probes the lies, self-deceptions, and honorable hearts of her characters
Minneapolis Star Tribune
[A] story of enchantment
Miami Herald (online)
"There have been many authors with whom one would want to sit down for a drink, capital D; you know, to have the profound, brooding literature talk, the what-does-it-all-mean exchange over a glass of scotch. Cathleen Schine, author of Fin & Lady, is on my drinking buddy wish-list—but she's different. In Fin & Lady, Schine writes a bittersweet but witty tale about love and the search for family, and her the ability to slip in such a range of subtle references and laugh aloud one-liners makes me want to invite her to the happiest of happy hours. The same goes for Schine's dynamic and memorable cast of characters in the novel...Fin's characterization is full of the intoxicating, culture-defying '60s vibe...a lively, thoughtful read."
The New York Times Book Review

[Like] writers before her, from Shakespeare to Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh, Schine skillfully plays with the conventions and the reader's expectations....A wise and wistful comic novel.
The New York Review of Books on The Three Weissmanns of Westport

Full of invention, wit, and wisdom that can bear comparison to Austen's own.
The New Yorker on The Three Weissmanns of Westport

A clever, frothy novel...Schine playfully probes the lies, self-deceptions, and honorable hearts of her characters.
The New YorkerThe Three Weissmanns of Westport

A clever, frothy novel . . . Schine playfully probes the lies, self-deceptions, and honorable hearts of her characters.

Cathleen Schine can always be counted on for an enticing, smart read.
Library Journal
The tale of an unprepared relative thrust into parenting a newly orphaned child usually takes a comedic bent and wraps up with a newfound romance and emotional maturity. Eleven-year-old Fin and his stepsister Lady twist that arc. They haven't seen each other in six years, not since Fin accompanied his parents to Europe to pull a runaway Lady back home. Lady, unrepentant and defiantly unconventional (though enjoying the ease her family's wealth provides) is as beautiful as she is unstable. Raising Fin doesn't help resolve her relationships with a trio of suitors, and Fin finds himself reenacting a European pursuit. Readers whose interest may begin to flag over Fin's adoration of Lady should hang on for a final plot twist. VERDICT A good summer read for those who like their family dramas with more bite than sweetness. [See Prepub Alert, 1/25/13.]—Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC
Kirkus Reviews
In her newest, about a young boy raised by his madcap half sister, Schine (The Three Wiessmanns of Westport, 2010, etc.) joins the spate of recent authors attempting to capture the zeitgeist of the 1960s. In 1964, after 11-year-old Fin's mother dies, he leaves the Connecticut farm where he's lived since his father's death to live in Manhattan with his new guardian, his father's daughter from his first marriage. Although she is Fin's only living relative, the last time they were together was six years earlier, when he went with his parents to Capri, where Lady had run away to avoid a socially acceptable marriage. Now 24, Lady is a mix of Auntie Mame and Holly Golightly--beautiful, effervescent and emotionally wounded. Whether carefree or careless, she is luckily extremely rich. She moves Fin into a hip but far from shabby Greenwich Village brownstone and enrolls him in a progressive school without desks or grading. She throws wild parties, drives a convertible, roots for the Mets and dabbles in leftist politics. She also puts Fin in charge of finding her a suitable husband. She has three suitors: Tyler, the fiance she jilted at the altar as a pregnant 18-year-old, has become the still besotted if bitter lawyer in charge of Fin's financial estate; handsome, not-too-bright jock Jack's appeal lies in his preppy shallowness; then there is Fin's choice, Biffi, a Hungarian Jew who survived World War II to become an art dealer of genuine kindness and wit. But the deep-seated sorrow peaking up through Biffi's charm scares Lady off. Loved by all three men, she's unable to love anyone except Fin and their black housekeeper, Mable, a character who defies conventional stereotypes and thus personifies the upheavals in the decade's civil rights movement. Then she returns to Capri and discovers the joy and danger of being in love herself. Schine offers up a bittersweet lemon soufflé of family love and romantic passion.
The Barnes & Noble Review

Fin & Lady is a cool, sweet breeze of a book. Set in 1960s Greenwich Village as two orphans try to form a family, Cathleen Schine's newest novel reads like a fairy tale, a sunlit story wrapped around a dark core.

It's 1964 when we meet Fin — only eleven years old, attending his mother's funeral. Though no one thinks it's a good idea, his mother's will has named his half sister, Lady, as his guardian. (" 'I don't think she had much choice, dear,' Mrs. Pounds whispered to him. 'There was no one else, was there?' ") Lady, who has also lost her mother, shares a father with Fin, the late Hugo Hadley. A hard-living financier, Hugo had an unexpected quirky side, which led him to name his daughter Lady, his son after the final frame of a French film: FIN.

Fin is undone by his mother's death, and by the fact that Lady has come to claim him. But Lady is so vivid, so different and compelling, that her presence jolts him — and everyone else in the church — into a different reality. "The other mourners stared at Lady, and why wouldn't they?" Schine writes. "She stood out. She vibrated, almost, in that quiet church. She was beautiful," with a "tentative wildness and reckless dignity."

Though they met once before, when Fin was five and Lady was an eighteen-year-old runaway bride, they're strangers now. Lady takes Fin from the sleepy Connecticut dairy farm where he has been living and spirits him into Manhattan, a surreal nighttime trip in her bright blue convertible. There, because Lady thinks the two remaining months of the school year aren't worth enrolling for, she fills Fin's new city life with adventure — trips and gifts and games and Broadway musicals.

It's a change so profound, Fin has trouble believing it's real. And so might anyone. Lady's mother left her a fortune when she died, so money is abundant. The siblings soon move from the luxurious Upper East Side apartment where Lady was raised, to a small brownstone in Greenwich Village she has just purchased. In this world free of any adults (Lady doesn't qualify) and of all responsibility, it's as though Eloise has turned twenty-four, decamped the Plaza, and moved into a groovy pad to play house with her kid brother.

Life in the Village settles into a rhythm of sorts. Fin finally goes to school, a progressive one where kids sit on the floor, call the teachers by their first names, and never have to take tests. Schine, who surprisingly skimps on the physical details of Greenwich Village in the '60s, nails the era's zeitgeist via the classroom: "They began each day with Community Meeting, usually a song by Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger, once with Pete Seeger actually there to lead them?. In Language Arts, they read and discussed the liner notes of Bob Dylan albums and made more posters."

Lady, who is determined to marry before she turns twenty-five, gives to Fin the task of finding her a mate. Soon, three would-be suitors are caught in Lady's entrancing orbit. Fin, meanwhile, carves out a life of his own. Though the turbulence of the '60s laps at the edges of his and Lady's lives, Schine keeps their world gauzy enough that even riots, assassinations, and the Vietnam War feel far away.

By the time Lady blows her self-imposed marriage deadline for the third time, her lovers still in her thrall, Fin blows up. With a fifteen-year-old's callous honesty, he calls Lady a coward. A day later, she vanishes.

It's bad news for Fin but great news for us. The tale, while charming, has stalled, and Fin has delivered the kick in the pants it sorely needed. What comes next is the heart of the book, an idyll on the isle of Capri. Lady finally falls in love — madly in love — and in the unexpected consequences gets a real story to play. For Schine, it's a chance to revel in a locale that she clearly adores:

Above, an arcade of lemons hung down, colossal lemons, and the sudden change from the glare of the street to the dappled shade was almost shocking.There was a garden and a terrace and steps to a small, cool white house. And from the windows upstairs, you could see beyond the other cool, shaded white villas to the sea.
It's not just the landscape of Fin & Lady that changes at this point but the tone as well. What was sharp and wry in the New York chapters is now, if not sentimental, at least filled with sentiment. Lady, who saved Fin at the start of the book, soon finds herself in dire need in Capri. Fin, no longer an orphan but part of a family, now returns the favor. Whimsical and witty, Fin & Lady offers escape yet still has has enough heart to keep you thinking after the last page is turned. At the risk of damning with faint praise — Schine has written a perfect book for the evanescent air of summer.

Veronique de Turenne is a Los Angeles–based journalist, essayist, and playwright. Her literary criticism appears on NPR and in major American newspapers. One of the highlights of her career was interviewing Vin Scully in his broadcast booth at Dodger Stadium, then receiving a handwritten thank-you note from him a few days later.

Reviewer: Veronique de Turenne

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781427231543
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio
  • Publication date: 7/9/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 8
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 5.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathleen Schine

Cathleen Schine is the author of The Three Weissmanns of Westport, The New Yorkers, and The Love Letter, among other novels. She has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review.


Cathleen Schine is the author of the internationally best-selling novels The Love Letter (1995), which was made into a movie starring Kate Capshaw, and Rameau's Niece (1993), which was also made into a movie (The Misadventures of Margaret), starring Parker Posey. Schine's other novels are Alice in Bed (1983), To the Bird House (1990), The Evolution of Jane (1999), She Is Me (2003), The New Yorkers (2006), and The Three Weissmanns of Westport (2010). In addition to novels she has written articles for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review, among other publications. She grew up in Westport, Ct.

Author biography courtesy of author's website.

Good To Know

In our interview, Schine revealed some fascinating facts about herself:

"I tried to be a medieval historian, but I have no memory for facts, dates, or abstract ideas, so that was a bust. When I came back to New York, I tried to be a buyer at Bloomingdale's because I loved shopping. I had an interview, but they never called me back. I really had no choice. I had to be a writer. I could not get a job. After doing some bits of freelance journalism at The Village Voice, I did finally get a job as a copy editor at Newsweek. My grammar was good, but I can't spell, so it was a challenge. My boss was very nice and indulgent, though, and I wrote Alice in Bed on scraps of paper during slow hours. I didn't have a regular job again until I wrote The Love Letter."

"The Love Letter was about a bookseller, so I worked in a bookstore in an attempt to understand the art of bookselling. I discovered that selling books is an interdisciplinary activity, the disciplines being: literary critic, psychologist, and stevedore. I was fired immediately for total incompetence and chaos and told to sit in the back and observe, no talking, no touching."

"I dislike humidity and vomit, I guess. My interests and hobbies are too expensive or too physically taxing to actually pursue. I like to take naps. I go shopping to unwind. I love to shop. Even if it's for Q-Tips or Post-Its."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York, and Venice, California
    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bridgeport, Connecticut
    1. Education:
      B.A., Barnard College, 1976
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

“Let’s go home”


Fin’s funeral suit was a year old, worn three times, already too small.

He knew his mother was sick. He knew she went to the hospital to get treatments. He saw the dark blue lines and dots on her chest.

“My tattoos,” she said.

She sang “Popeye the Sailor Man” and raised her skinny arms as if to flex her Popeye muscles, to make him laugh.

He knew she was sick. He knew people died. But he never thought she would die. Not his mother. Not really.

Lady came to the funeral, an unmistakably foreign presence in the bare, white Congregational church: she wore large sunglasses and wept audibly.

Fin’s neighbors, the Pounds, who raised big, thick Morgan horses, had been looking after Fin since his mother was taken to the hospital.

“I’m sure your mother knew what she was doing,” Mr. Pound said doubtfully when he saw Lady Hadley approach, her arms open wide, a lighted cigarette dangling from her lips.

“I don’t think she had much choice, dear,” Mrs. Pound whispered to him. “There was no one else, was there?”

“I like Lady,” Fin said loyally. But she was terrifying, coming at him like some mad bird with a squawk of “Fratello mio! It’s all so dreadful!”

Lady put her arms around him and held him close. She was all he had, as Mrs. Pound had pointed out. All he had. He barely knew her. Unfamiliar arms. A stranger’s cheek, wet with tears leaking from beneath her dark glasses. He wanted to cry, too, for so many reasons that they seemed to cancel one another out. He stood there like a statue, nauseated and faint.

The other mourners stared at Lady. Why wouldn’t they? She stood out. She vibrated, almost, in that quiet church. She was beautiful. Fin liked her hair, which was long. He liked her teeth. She thought they were too big, but she was wrong. She was like a horse. Not one of the Pounds’ heavy Morgan horses with short sturdy necks and thick clomping legs. She was like a racehorse. Jittery. Majestic. Her long neck and long legs—and her face, too. She had a horsey face, in a beautiful way. And bangs, like a forelock. He’d told her that, the last time he’d seen her. He had been five. “You look like a horse,” he’d said. “Charming,” said Lady. “Me and Eleanor Roosevelt.” He had not meant that at all. Eleanor Roosevelt, whose picture he’d seen in the newspaper, did not look like a horse. More like his grandmother. Big, sloping breast. Important face. He meant that Lady’s eyes were huge and dark, that her cheekbones were high and pronounced, that her face was aristocratic and long, that her hair flew in the wind like a mane, that she was coltish even in her movements of tentative wildness and reckless dignity. He didn’t know that he meant all that when he was five. He just knew that she reminded him of a horse. He was eleven now. He had not seen her for six years. She still reminded him of a horse. “A racehorse,” he had added when he was five, and Lady had smiled and said, “Oh, that’s all right, then.”

When the funeral was over, Lady would not allow him to go to the grave site.

“It’s barbaric,” she said to Mr. and Mrs. Pound.

They looked at her with shocked faces, pinched by hurt at what they, rightly, took to be Lady’s dismissal of every aspect of almost two thousand years of religious tradition.

“The kid is hanging on by his eyelids,” she said.

“I saw Daddy buried,” Fin said. “And Grandma and Grandpa.”

“I rest my case,” said Lady.

“You’re the boss,” Mr. Pound said. He heaved a sigh, then he shook Fin’s hand and wished him luck in his new life.

Mrs. Pound hugged him and said he’d make his mother proud in heaven, and then he did start to cry and ran outside.

Humiliating, to cry at his age. Babies cried. The Pounds had a baby, a bald sticky one that screamed for no reason, out of the blue. Mrs. Pound would pick it up and hug it. Fin wanted to shake it, although, really, he could not imagine even touching it. It was an obnoxious baby. “I’ll give you something to cry about,” Fin’s father used to say. Then he died. The Pounds’ baby had its parents. Stuart was its name. Fin had taken one of its toys and given it to the dog. The baby didn’t even notice.

*   *   *

Lady found him outside, pressed against the side of the church, still crying like Stuart, who didn’t even know enough to realize his toy had been stolen.

“Go away,” he said.

“Fat chance.”

“Leave me alone.”

“Come on, pal.” She took his hand, gently.

“Just please go away.”

He tried to pull his hand back. Lady did not let go. Instead, she gave a violent pull.

“Hey!” he said. “Quit it.” She had almost yanked him off his feet.

“See?” she said. “Nothing like a good shock. No more tears! Poof! Just like hiccups.”

They walked toward the parking lot. He kept what he hoped was a safe distance. His father had called Lady a loose cannon. Among other things.

“Come on, Finino,” she said, reaching out, taking his hand. Her voice was so gentle.

Finino. That’s what she’d called him the first time he saw her.

“Come on, Finino,” she said again. “Let’s go home.”

*   *   *

Lady’s car was a turquoise convertible, a Karmann Ghia, and driving in the tiny sports car with the sky above him diverted Fin for the ten-minute trip back to the house.

When they got there, Fin and Lady stood for a moment on the porch.

“Now, Fin,” she said, a hand on each shoulder, surveying him, “this has been a tragedy of monstrous proportions.”

Monstrous proportions. Fin remembered how much he loved the way Lady spoke. Sometimes she sounded like the ladies in slinky dresses in old movies on TV. Sometimes she sounded like a cowboy. Monstrous proportions. It was a tragedy, it was monstrous, a monster so big he would never get past it.

“So. Of course you’ll want a nice bath and then a nap.”

“No thank you.” He looked down at the worn boards of the porch. They needed paint. He had helped his grandfather paint them just two years ago, holding the brushes mostly, cleaning them with turpentine and a rag.

“No? Really? That’s what I do, you know, when tragedy strikes. A nice stiff drink, a soak in the tub, a nap…”

A stiff drink. That’s a good one, Fin thought.

“I’m eleven,” he said.

“Ah,” she said. “Too old for a nap, too young for a drink. Is that what you’re saying?”

He felt shy in front of Lady. She was so vivid. Everything about her. Her dress was inches shorter than any dress he’d ever seen, and though it was a good sober navy blue like his suit, it had incongruous bright white piping along the edges that seemed to be made of plastic. When she smiled, her head tilted back and her teeth emerged, white and straight except for one.

He heard the cows in the distance. They were in the upper pasture. Who would bring them down? Who would milk them?

“What about the cows?” he asked. “I can’t just leave them.” It was a sweltering day, and he stood in his heavy wool suit on his own porch in the heat, in the dull cushion of sadness he realized he must now carry with him every minute of every day. He wiped his eyes and his nose on his navy wool sleeve, leaving it stained and wet. He imagined the cows, abandoned, bony, and weak. “The cows,” he said, looking at Lady. “What about the cows?”

“Is that them? Mooing?” Lady took him by the hand. “Come on, Fin, let’s go see what they want. Cows!” she called out. “Oh, cows!”

Fin gave her a sideways glance to see if she was making fun of him, but she looked quite earnest. He led her past the manure pile, through the gate, over the hill in the lower pasture and into the green hills of the upper. The cows were gathered, flicking their tails, beneath a tree, two of them lying down, two standing facing the approaching humans.

Fin patted the two standing cows, Daisy and Darlington. They had been his mother’s favorites. Guernseys.

He looked back at Lady, who had kept her distance from the animals. Lady’s shoes—flat, not like his mother’s high heels, and white—were covered with mud and manure and grass stains.

“You ruined your shoes, I guess,” Fin said, a little guiltily.

“Are they okay? The cows?”

“I guess they are.”

“You do a lot of guessing, don’t you, Fin?”

He grinned. “I guess.”

They went back toward the house. Fin herded the cows through the gate with clucks and slaps on their rumps, determined not to cry again as he thought of leaving them. The cows would remain on the farm in their own barn awaiting his return when he was old enough to take care of them himself. Jim Cornelius was moving in and would look after the farm, Lady said. Fin liked plump, smiling Mr. Cornelius. He was the music teacher at school. But Mr. Cornelius did not belong on his grandparents’ farm, in his grandparents’ house. He belonged behind the upright piano in school, pounding out the notes and overenunciating the words of cheerful songs that made no sense:

Have you ever

Seen Quebec?

Don-key riding …

When they got back to the house, Fin’s suit was filthy, covered by a film of dust. He stood inside the door, leaning against the screen, weary and low. He wished Lady would offer him a glass of lemonade. His mother often made lemonade for him in the summer. But his mother was gone. She had died of cancer, a word that was whispered fearfully, as if even its enunciation might be deadly. The thought of her holding a glass out to him in those last weeks before she was moved to the hospital, her emaciated arm trembling, her face drawn and purposefully cheerful, made him miss her in a way he had not yet had time to do. How could he, with all the sympathetic fussing of neighbors interrupting him every time he sat down to think? They meant well. But sometimes you need to be alone. He felt alone, even surrounded by neighbors and pie. But sometimes you need to really be alone. He glanced at Lady and got the feeling that would be no problem in the future.

More than anything he had ever wanted before, he wanted at that moment to bury his face in his mother’s shoulder one more time. But there was only Lady. She tilted her head and gazed back at him curiously until he finally found the courage to ask her if he could get a glass of water.

“Water is for washing,” she said gaily. But she followed him into his grandmother’s kitchen, watched him get a glass out of the cupboard and hold it under the tap, then lighted a cigarette and watched him drink.

“What about Gus?” he asked when he’d finished.


“Our dog.” He paused. Then: “My dog.”

“Oh God. A mutt, too?”

“He’s not a mutt. He’s a collie.”

“Shouldn’t it stay here with its flock of cows? Won’t it be sad without them?”

“He would be sad without me.” What Fin didn’t say was that he would be sad without Gus, but Lady didn’t need him to, it appeared.

“Oh God,” she said again. “Well, where is Rin Tin Tin hiding, anyway?”

He was at the Pounds’.

“He’s at the pound? Good grief, they couldn’t wait until after the funeral?”

“No,” Fin said. “The Pounds, the people you met, the people who took care of me.”

“Thank God,” she said. “I do not approve of euthanasia, Fin. Remember that. If it ever comes up.”

“What’s euthanasia?”

“Come on,” she said.

Fin had packed his clothes in a large suitcase. A pair of blue jeans, two pairs of cotton slacks for school, his shirts. His sneakers. Two sweaters. His winter jacket. He hadn’t been sure what to pack, really. He had never packed for himself. His toothbrush. He had almost forgotten it. In a box he’d put his baseball glove, toy soldiers, comics, models, books, and records. He wondered if Lady had a record player.

“The rest will be put in storage, Finny. So don’t worry.”

“This is all I have,” he said. “There is no other stuff. No stuff that’s mine.”

“I’m afraid it’s all yours now.” Lady pointed to his grandmother’s collection of little Delft houses, to the needlepoint pillows, to the cranberry glass and the wooden rocking chair—to everything in the house. And then she pointed out the windows. “The cows, too, Finny.”

It hit Fin then for the first time that he was really leaving. It hit him then, and not for the last time, that nothing would ever be the same again.


Copyright © 2013 by Cathleen Schine

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Cathleen Schine, Author of Fin & Lady
Interview by Tess Taylor

You make your story about Fin, a young boy growing up take place during a couple of years in the sixties when the country seems to be changing as fast as Fin is. When did you know what years exactly you'd write about?

The Beatles. That's one thing. I'm the same age as Fin, and for me, the arrival of the Beatles in 1964 was the beginning of the end of childhood. So it was definitely a personal affinity-- writing about the early sixties was extremely intimate for me. I mean, a few days ago, listening to a playlist I'd made of 1964 songs, I realized that they are the only songs I really know the lyrics to. But it's also true that the early sixties were an odd time generally, historically -- both innocent, full of hope and excitement, and also, ultimately, so radical and doomed. I began the novel with a curiosity about an eleven-year-old boy named Fin and a twenty-three-year-old named Lady, of how a boy would grow up with such an irreverent and, let's face it, irresponsible guardian. The sixties, so irreverent and irresponsible, were exactly the years I wanted, the years the two characters belonged in.

Crafting an authentic world from a kid's point of view is nomean feat. What was the process of creating Fin's voice like?

When I began the book, it was in the first person in Fin's voice, a sixty- year-old man looking back. I often start a novel in the first person and, with one exception, I always abandon it. Humor needs distance. So does sympathy. To write about love, or anger, or pain or friendship, I need the distance of the third person in order to get close enough. I did not find it terribly difficult to write from a child's point of view once I knew who Fin was. Perhaps beginning as I did, with the older Fin looking back, helped, even though I ditched all of that, every word. But children have such an eccentric way of experiencing the world, and I remember that feeling quite well, of being an outsider, an explorer, really, in the weird world of adults I liked the way Fin observed things from a different angle, literally—children are small, their eyes land on different objects, they see faces from below, they see things we adults miss. And, almost as important: I did not want it to be from Lady's perspective. For me, Lady was clearly, right from the beginning, someone on whom everyone else projected their ideas and explanations. There was something almost violently remote about her.

Lady is a wonderful character, both mythic and also fragile; larger than life, but also someone to whom Fin has a certain privileged and intimate access. How did you discover her?

It took me a long time and a lot of drafts to find Lady. Truly flawed characters are the most difficult and the most satisfying to write about, I think. She was merely unpleasant when I started, rather than nuanced or complex. It really took Fin to help me understand who she was. The more he watched her, the more I saw her. And one day, I realized that Lady gave Fin books to read. That gesture, that instinct, as well as the books themselves, brought her to life for me in a new, idiosyncratic but touching way.

Somewhere in the book we realize that there's another narrator, someone who also knows these stories Fin is telling. Did that voice always exist in that story? If not, how did you know you wanted to put it in?

No, the narrator's voice was originally Fin as an adult, but it was wrong, and I found much more intimacy and immediacy writing from his point of view in the third person. But then as the narrative progressed, the story itself led me to realize that there was a narrator and who that narrator was.

I notice that-whether in this book or say, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, you often seem to write about characters that are, well, wealthy. Do you feel that this is your literary milieu?

I wish it were my milieu, forget about the literary. None of my earlier novels had much to do with money, actually, but money is a powerful force in the world, and in The Weissmanns one of the things I wanted to look at was how different people react to the loss of that force—the loss of the comfort money buys, the loss of status, the loss of the lives they thought belonged to them. In Fin & Lady, money means something different. It means freedom, freedom from convention, up to a point anyway. And freedom from the need to get married. As the sixties went on, and freedom became liberation with a capital L, the assertive independence that Lady believes in became more accessible. But for Lady, it is money that gives her that kind of freedom, a kind of freedom few women had at that time. I'm not saying Lady's money buys her happiness. It doesn't. But it gives her room to be unhappy in her own way.

Here at Barnes & Noble we're always looking to hear about great new authors. What are you reading lately that captivates you?

Lookaway, Lookaway, a new novel by Wilton Barnhardt that comes out in August, just blew me away. It's so funny and so tart and so tender — I just loved it. It is, in a word, masterful. He's not a new author, but he is an under appreciated one, I think.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 67 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 68 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2013

    This book made me laugh out loud, and brought me to tears. It's

    This book made me laugh out loud, and brought me to tears. It's very powerful because the characters are so vivid. 
    All of them, not just Fin and the enigmatic Lady. I loved every nuance of the story and all the brilliant characters. I didn't 
    live through the '60s, but the period came alive for me in Shine's wonderful novel. 

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 9, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a charming book full of emotion. The writing pops off th

    This is a charming book full of emotion. The writing pops off the page. Highly recommended.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    I lvoe Cathleen Schine's writing. I read this book in three days

    I lvoe Cathleen Schine's writing. I read this book in three days. She creates characters that you care about.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Living Life to the Fullest!

    Set in the 60’s during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, hippies, Woodstock, and carefree living, a story of a boy named Fin who has lost his parents at age 8 yrs. old has found he now is in the care of his older, bohemian carefree and beautiful sister named Lady. (Set in Greenwich Village, New York, Connecticut, Capri, and Italy, among other world travels and enchanting adventures with an array of color characters). She is most definitely not parent material, as runs from responsibility -- enjoys living life to the fullest and adventure.
    Fin and Lady become a team as Fin enjoys the highs and not so much the lows. As Lady begins worrying about being a single spinster, she begins dating many suitors and of course, Fin is in the center of her friends and men and has an opinion of each. Fin becomes more of a parent at sometimes more so than Lady.

    Fin gets to experience travel and culture--subjected to worldly cultures well beyond his young age. A beautiful story; however, the audio gets very long and drawn out. I would like to have Fin be more of the main central character with more depth from him, versus of Lady and more history of Lady before she takes over as Fin’s guardian. I think the book was funny at some points and liked Bithie and did not care for the parts of Lady with Michelangelo as it separated the Fin/Lady. Will not disclose other spoiler parts which come towards the end of the novel as the book comes full circle, making the book worth reading.

    This is my first book by Cathleen Schine and would definitely read more. Not my usual type of book; however, think the narrator did a great job and would recommend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 27, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    A wonderfully entertaining book set smack dab in the 60s. The ch

    A wonderfully entertaining book set smack dab in the 60s. The characters are all very well developed (not just Fin and Lady). The storyline is also very entertaining. The 1960s setting is spot on cool.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2013


    I love this book it's full of emotion.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2013

    Sweet, tender and funny

    Loved spending time with this book, which acknowledges life's deepest moments without drowning in them. Read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Not recommended

    I find this book to be a boring read. Every chapter is a repeat of the one before. I keep reading in hopes that there is some hidden purpose or something that will happen to give me that "ahha" moment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 1, 2015

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent read.  I highly recommend it.

    Excellent read.  I highly recommend it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 24, 2015


    Good story about relatives and survival.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2014

    Would give more stars if I could.  A wonderful, wonderful book.

    Would give more stars if I could.  A wonderful, wonderful book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    Highly recommended

    Loved it,could not put it down,and now sorry I finished it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2014


    Walks in

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2014


    Gets dressed and walks out.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2014


    I take a shower and leave

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    Loved this book!

    I admit I like Cathleen Schine very much but not indiscriminately. That said, she is a master story teller with beautiful character development.
    Fin and Lady was no exception. With many lovable characters and a great tight plot line I highly recommend Fin and Lady to everyone.
    As a New Yorker it is fun to see the different parts of the city thru other's eyes.
    Enjoy this and her book The New Yorkers.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2013

    A wonderful book

    Fin & Lady was a story that will stay with me for a long time. It reads like a classic novel. The characters have a depth and unique quality that made them unforgettable, lovable, and real. A great read for book clubs as character, dialogue,setting and theme are rich for discussion.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Light, fun; Think: Auntie Mame

    How can you miss with a young orphaned boy (Fin) who is taken in by his older, wild sister (Lady), friendly dog, fast car, string of Lady's suitors and the best of New York city?

    Lady knows little of parenting except that she disliked her own parents and Fin is missing his mother very much. Together Fin and Lady cobble together a life where she is more or less in charge and he is more or less being parented.

    Yes, there is sadness but you'll absorb it, recover and enjoy the rest.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 6, 2013

    This was such a fun read, and the ending caught me by surprise.

    This was such a fun read, and the ending caught me by surprise. Highly recommend!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2013

    Families: Love is where you find it

    This is a wonderful story told with humor and pathos. It deserves to be on everyone's favorite book list this year. Lady and her very young brother Fin forge family bonds that seem unlikely to work. The travels and travails of these two against the backdrop of Greenwich Village and the Isle of Capri is a story to remember. It begins in the 1960's and covers cultural, social, and familial changes over many years. Read this book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 68 Customer Reviews

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