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To see her three daughters happily married: Is that too much for a mother to ask? Evidently, it just might be, as Pastan's smart, moving, and original story of contemporary families illustrates.
The mother in question is Dr. Evelyn Rubin, wife of the esteemed Judge Rubin. Married 40 years earlier in a traditional Jewish ceremony, the domineering Dr. Rubin can't understand why her daughters have yet to follow her lead by marrying, carrying on productive careers, and raising budding families. Her oldest is 38 and an intellectual commitment-phobe; her middle daughter is married but both infertile and unemployed; and her youngest is a self-absorbed singleton. Hosting regular (and compulsory) family brunches, the long-suffering Dr. Rubin can't stop trying to shape her daughters' lives, but even her best efforts are incapable of creating the storybook family she craves.
As matches form and threaten to fall apart, Dr. Rubin and her daughters look back at the past in an effort to understand the present, and the girls recall how deeply influenced they were by their babysitter, who offered them a different love than that which they received from their mother. Written in an assured style reminiscent of Jane Austen's classic fiction, This Side of Married offers a dissection of modern-day family life in an enjoyable and insightful package. And for many readers, it will certainly hit home. (Fall 2004 Selection)