The Three Weissmanns of Westport

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Overview

A New York Times Best Seller

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Betty Weissmann has just been dumped by her husband of forty-eight years. Exiled from her elegant New York apartment by her husband’s mistress, she and her two middle-aged daughters, Miranda and Annie, regroup in a run-down Westport, Connecticut, beach cottage. In Schine’s playful and devoted homage to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the impulsive sister is ...

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Overview

A New York Times Best Seller

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Betty Weissmann has just been dumped by her husband of forty-eight years. Exiled from her elegant New York apartment by her husband’s mistress, she and her two middle-aged daughters, Miranda and Annie, regroup in a run-down Westport, Connecticut, beach cottage. In Schine’s playful and devoted homage to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the impulsive sister is Miranda, a literary agent entangled in a series of scandals, and the more pragmatic sister is Annie, a library director, who feels compelled to move in and watch over her capricious mother and sister. Schine’s witty, wonderful novel is simply full of pleasure: the pleasure of reading, the pleasure of Austen, and the pleasure that the characters so rightly and humorously pursue….An absolute triumph” (The Cleveland Plain Dealer).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A geriatric stepfather falls in love with a scheming woman half his age in Schine's Sense and Sensibility–flecked and compulsively readable follow-up to The New Yorkers. Betty Weissman is 75 when Joseph, her husband of nearly 50 years, announces he's divorcing her. Soon, Betty moves out of their grand Central Park West apartment and Joseph's conniving girlfriend, Felicity, moves in. Betty lands in a rundown Westport, Conn., beach cottage, but things quickly get more complicated when Betty's daughters run into their own problems. Literary agent Miranda is sued into bankruptcy after it's revealed that some of her authors made up their lurid memoirs, and Annie, drowning in debt, can no longer afford her apartment. Once they relocate to Westport, both girls fall in love—Annie rather awkwardly with the brother of her stepfather's paramour, and Miranda with a younger actor who has a young son. An Austen-esque mischief hovers over these romantic relationships as the three women figure out how to survive and thrive. It's a smart crowd pleaser with lovably flawed leads and the best tearjerker finale you're likely to read this year. (Feb.)
Dominique Browning
…sparkling, crisp, clever, deft, hilarious and deeply affecting…her best yet…Schine's homage has it all: stinging social satire, mordant wit, delicate charm, lilting language and cosseting materialistic detail.
—The New York Times
The New York Times Book Review
Schine gives her characters more than their fair share of luck, but she is also brave enough to let them wrestle with raw fear. Among its many gifts to the dearest sort of reader, a fully engaged one, 'The Three Weissmanns of Westport' offers the chance for a mediation on that snake of Emily Dickinson's as it slithers through the grass-the snake that sometimes startles and frightens us, so undefended and unprepared are we, caught in our 'tighter breathing, and zero at the bone.'
—Dominique Browning
Booklist
It may be hard to envision a novel of manners set in our ill-mannered times, but accomplished author Schine has captured the essence ofSense and Sensibility and dropped it into today's Manhattan and Westport. The Weissmanns, elderly mother and two mature daughters driven to penury by divorce and career reversals, must rely on the beneficence of Cousin Lou for the shabby roof over their heads. Annie, still modestly employed as a librarian, has both salary and an apartment to sublet, so it falls to her to provide the income for the three. Alas,the other two spend money as if it were still the old days. Mother Betty affects widowhood as it is easier than the pending divorce. Sister Miranda finds inappropriate love. The wide-ranging cast of characters--fools, scoundrels, poseurs, the good-hearted, and secret heroes--provides interesting interplay. Wild coincidences abound, so that Manhattan, Westport, and Palm Springs are but mere extensions of the classic drawing room. There is sadness but also love in this thoroughlyenjoyable, finely crafted modern novel.
—Danise Hoover
Library Journal
Drawing on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, Schine (The New Yorkers) has written a witty update in which a late-life divorce exiles Betty Weissmann and her adult daughters, Annie and Miranda, from a luxurious life in New York to a shabby beach cottage in Westport, CT. Annie is the serious daughter and Miranda the drama queen. Both women find unexpected love, while Betty, a sweet, frivolous spendthrift, struggles with her newly impoverished state. What comfort the Weissmanns enjoy is owing to the generosity of Cousin Lou, a Holocaust survivor and real-estate mogul, whose goal in life is to rescue everyone, whether or not rescue is needed. While beautifully preserving the essence of the plot, Schine skillfully manages to parallel the original novel in clever 21st-century ways—the trip to London becomes a holiday in Palm Springs; the scoundrel Willoughby becomes a wannabe actor. VERDICT Austen lovers and those who enjoyed updates like Paula Marantz Cohen's Jane Austen in Boca and Jane Austen in Scarsdale should appreciate this novel. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/09.]—Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS
Kirkus Reviews
Already recognized for her own witty romantic comedies of manners, Schine (The New Yorkers, 2008, etc.) joins the onslaught of Austen imitators. Upper-middle-class, mostly Jewish New Yorkers take the place of British gentry in this Sense and Sensibility riff. After 48 years of marriage, 78-year-old Joseph Weissman leaves his 75-year-old wife Betty for Felicity Barrow, a younger woman with whom he works. Although Josie (as his stepdaughters call him) repeatedly swears he wants to be generous to Betty, Felicity manipulates him into closing Betty's credit-card accounts and forcing her out of the Weissmans' Upper West Side apartment she herself paid for decades ago. Fortunately, kindly Cousin Lou lends Betty his abandoned cottage in Westport, Conn., and Betty's daughters, outraged on their mother's behalf although they don't stop loving Josie, move in with her. Romantic, never married but often in love, 49-year-old Miranda is in dire financial straits herself, as scandals concerning the memoirists she represents threaten to bankrupt her literary agency. Sensible Annie, briefly married and long divorced, has successfully raised two sons while working at a privately endowed library. Now living in stoic loneliness, she has begun to fall in love with famous author Frederick Barrow, who happens to be Felicity's brother and whose grown offspring jealously guard his affections. In Westport, Annie is hurt when Frederick practically ignores her at a gathering at Cousin Lou's. Meanwhile, Miranda has an affair with the handsome young actor next door and falls seriously in love with his two-year-old son. Feisty Betty begins to refer to herself as a widow. In true Austen fashion, love and money conquerall, although Schine adds some modern sorrow and a slightly off-putting disdain for her male characters, who range from narcissistically foolish to, in what passes for the romantic hero, pragmatic and unoffending. Infectious fun, but the tweaked version never quite lives up to the original.
Publishers Weekly
Schine's Austenesque novel of manners translates delightfully to audio, thanks to the witty, character-centric writing and Hillary Huber's empathetic narration. Huber's nuanced performance makes the listener feel for elderly, abandoned Betty and her two beleaguered daughters, and the creative character voices (ranging from frail Betty and Yiddish-accented Cousin Lou to Valley Girl Amber, snippy Felicity, and adorable three-year-old Henry) brings the colorful cast to vivid life. Best of all, as expressive as she is, Huber is never histrionic: even when selfish characters like gold digger Felicity present their points of view, Huber plays it straight, allowing the characters' patently self-serving words to speak for themselves and the listener to judge them, resisting the urge to overplay the obvious hypocrisy. This audio is a pleasure to listen to—a perfect marriage of novel and narrator. A Farrar, Straus & Giroux hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 21). (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“Schine’s homage to Jane Austen has it all....A sparkling, crisp, clever, deft, hilarious, and deeply affecting new novel, her best yet . . . Schine is clearly a writer who loves to read as much as she loves to write. And it is great fun to play English major with her.” —Dominique Browning, The New York Times Book Review

“Schine has been favored in so many ways by the muse of comedy . . . The Three Weissmanns of Westport is full of invention, wit, and wisdom that can bear comparison to Austen’s own.” —The New York Review of Books

“A success…Sharp-edged satire.” —Marion Winik, The Miami Herald

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

“Schine sets the Austen machinery in perfect forward motion, and then works some lovely modern changes, keeping the pace going at a lively clip . . . Spotting the similarities and differences between the early 19th century and early 21st century stories is good sport, but the greater pleasure comes from Schine’s own clever girls and their awkward attempts to find happiness.” —The Boston Globe

“There is so much zest for life in this novel that you can only imagine how much fun Cathleen Schine had writing it.” —Carol Memmott, USA Today 

“Absolutely wonderful. You’ll turn each page with anticipation, all the while wishing you could read it slowly in order to savor the deliciousness of Schine’s particular sensibility….It will warm the center of your heart.” —Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge

“Swap genteel nineteenth-century England for upscale contemporary Connecticut, add two sisters—one impulsive, one practical—and stir with lively doses of romance, domestic discord, sudden setbacks, and sublime surprises, and you get Cathleen Schine’s homage to Jane Austen.” —Elle

“No Cathleen Schine book is without wit and sharply observed moments.” —The Wall Street Journal

"A geriatric stepfather falls in love with a scheming woman half his age in Schine's Sense and Sensibility–flecked and compulsively readable follow-up to The New Yorkers. Betty Weissman is 75 when Joseph, her husband of nearly 50 years, announces he's divorcing her. Soon, Betty moves out of their grand Central Park West apartment and Joseph's conniving girlfriend, Felicity, moves in. Betty lands in a rundown Westport, Conn., beach cottage, but things quickly get more complicated when Betty's daughters run into their own problems. Literary agent Miranda is sued into bankruptcy after it's revealed that some of her authors made up their lurid memoirs, and Annie, drowning in debt, can no longer afford her apartment. Once they relocate to Westport, both girls fall in love—Annie rather awkwardly with the brother of her stepfather's paramour, and Miranda with a younger actor who has a young son. An Austen-esque mischief hovers over these romantic relationships as the three women figure out how to survive and thrive. It's a smart crowd pleaser with lovably flawed leads and the best tearjerker finale you're likely to read this year." —Publishers Weekly

The Barnes & Noble Review

Here are some of the things Cathleen Schine makes fun of in The Three Weissmanns of Westport, her sparkling homage to Sense and Sensibility: men trading in their old wives for newer models; divorce lawyers; author tours and readings; fallout from the rash of fraudulent memoirs; Westport, Connecticut; McMansions; infomercials and daytime television; pomposity; people who incessantly quote Shakespeare; and self-deluding notions of fairness and generosity.

Schine is a master of the modern domestic comedy. Her novels, distinguished by keen intelligence, sharp wit, and, more often than not, an underpinning in the classics, are light yet not without weight, effervescent yet tethered by solid thought and feeling. She's more intellectually inclined than Elinor Lipman but no less delightful. In Rameau's Niece (1993), she anchored a satire of academics, New York intelligentsia, and issues of confused sexuality with a pastiche of Diderot and an erotic 18th-century manuscript. In The Evolution of Jane(1998), set in the Galapagos, she applied Darwinian theory to transmutations in close female friendships. She Is Me (2003) refracts a story of three generations of women coping with love, illness, and grief through Flaubert's Madame Bovary.

And now, with her eighth novel, she goes directly for the mother ship, the oft-imitated but never equaled Jane Austen. Why? Because Jane Austen is irresistible. Because you write the book you want to read. Because why let Paula Marantz Cohen have all the fun with Jane Austen in Boca, her recasting of Pride and Prejudice with Florida widows, orJane Austen in Scarsdale, her transposition of Persuasion to college admissions in Westchester county?

So, another (at least nominally) Jewish twist on Austen. The alluringly alliterative The Three Weissmanns of Westport is actually Schine's second novel set in the wealthy coastal suburb; the pink bookstore of The Love Letter(1995) was based on her hometown's late lamented, aptly named Remarkable Book Shop.

Schine's new novel opens with Austenian directness. Instead of primogeniture, divorce is the disrupter that abruptly changes a family's -- and especially a woman's--circumstances. When Joseph Weissmann, 78, tells his wife of 48 years that he wants a divorce because of "irreconcilable differences," 75-year-old Betty says, "Irreconcilable differences? Of course there are irreconcilable differences. What on earth does that have to do with divorce?" A bit more sparring, and we learn that "The name of Joe's irreconcilable difference was Felicity, although Betty referred to her, pretending she could not remember the correct name, sometimes as Pleurisy, more often as Duplicity."

When Joe says, "I want to be generous," Betty rightly takes umbrage. "Generous? she thought. It was as if she were the maid and was being fired. Would he offer her two months' salary?" She tells him, "You cannot be generous with what is mine." Schine clinches the exchange: "And the divorce, like horses in a muddy race, their sides frothing, was off and running."

And so, of course, is Schine's novel. Just as Sense and Sensibility's John Dashwood is convinced by his selfish wife to dislodge his stepmother and three stepsisters from Norland Park despite deathbed promises to his father that he would provide for them, Joseph Weissmann is convinced by his tough new paramour, Felicity, that the Weissmanns' large, gracious Central Park West apartment is rightly his and that he shouldn't burden Betty with its upkeep or the onerous taxes that would result from its sale.

With her credit cards canceled and no funds until the divorce is settled, Betty relies, like Austen's displaced Dashwoods, on the kindness of friends and relatives. She retreats, heartsick, to a rundown cottage on Westport's Compo Beach slated for teardown. Her two middle-aged daughters accompany her for solidarity. Their benefactor is Cousin Lou, a successful real estate developer -- but not an entirely successful character -- who's never forgotten his origins as a W.W.II refugee. Annie Weissmann is the practical member of the trio, the family worrier, a long divorced librarian with two grown sons. Forty-nine-year-old Miranda, too inconstant in her emotions to have ever married, is a literary agent wed, in a sense, to her demanding "Awful Authors." When it turns out that several of the memoirs she championed were fabricated -- "fake cheesy lurid tragedy" -- Miranda is vilified by the literary world and disgraced on Oprah.

Schine pokes fun at "sororal rage" and family dynamics revived from childhood as the three women cope with their new "genteel poverty" and meet potential suitors at magnanimous Cousin Lou's weekly dinner parties. Miranda spurns the steady, quiet, semi-retired lawyer -- Schine's stand-in for Austen's Colonel Brandon -- instead falling in love with several unlikely candidates, and in the process discovering her inner nanny. One thing the author holds sacred is maternity. She writes, "No wonder people had children, [Miranda] thought. A child replaced art and work and culture." When Annie's sons turn up to brighten an otherwise dismal Thanksgiving, "Annie was so happy she felt ill." But she registers sadness and resignation at the knowledge that, "though they would always be at the center of her life, she was no longer at the center of theirs."

The novel is filled with zingers and riffs you can't resist reading aloud -- lines like "He was an actor, so he never had any work." There are plenty of serious aperçus, as well. After being advised to hire a shark lawyer and a forensic accountant, Betty, newly taken during her "cottage arrest" with daytime television, observes, "A divorce was surely a kind of death: a murder, in fact. It was the memories, so stubbornly happy and lifeless and useless, stinking with decay, that lay in a putrid heap like a rotting corpse."

As with Austen, the anticipation -- even after multiple readings -- of the pieces falling neatly into place is enormously satisfying, somewhat akin to the progression toward the harmonious resolution of a Bach Invention. I don't recall ever shedding a tear when reading Sense and Sensibility, but I cried at the end of Schine's novel. It's not easy to be both funny and moving, and to write a conclusion that is both happy and sad. Schine pulls it off. This is a book I'll urge on friends.

--Heller McAlpin

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374299040
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 2/2/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 292
  • Sales rank: 1,445,450
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathleen Schine is the author of 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.

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Read an Excerpt

The Three Weissmanns of Westport


By Cathleen Schine

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2010 Cathleen Schine
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-374-29904-0


Chapter One

When Joseph Weissmann divorced his wife, he was seventy-eight years old and she was seventy-five. He announced his decision in the kitchen of their apartment on the tenth floor of a large, graceful Central Park West building built at the turn of the last century, the original white tiles of the kitchen still gleaming on the walls around them. Joseph, known as Joe to his colleagues at work but always called Joseph by his wife, said the words "irreconcilable differences," and saw real confusion in his wife's eyes.

Irreconcilable differences? she said. Of course there are irreconcilable differences. What on earth does that have to do with divorce?

In Joe's case it had very little to do with divorce. In Joe's case, as is so often the case, the reason for the divorce was a woman. But a woman was not, unsurprisingly, the reason he gave his wife.

Irreconcilable differences?

Betty was surprised. They had been married for forty-eight years. She was used to Joseph, and she was sure Joseph was used to her. But he would not be dissuaded. Their history was history to him.

Joseph had once been a handsome man. Even now, he was straight, unstooped; his bald head was somehow distinguished rather than lacking, as if men, important men,aspired to a smooth shining pate. His nose was narrow and protruded importantly. His eyes were also narrow and, as he aged, increasingly protected by folds of skin, as if they were secrets. Women liked him. Betty had certainly liked him, once. He was quiet and unobtrusive, requiring only a large breakfast before he went to work, a large glass of Scotch when he arrived home, and a small, light dinner at 7:30 sharp.

Over the years, Betty began to forget that she liked Joseph. The large breakfast seemed grotesque, the drink obsessive, the light supper an affectation. This happened in their third decade together and lasted until their fourth. Then, Betty noticed, Joseph's routines somehow began to take on a comforting rhythm, like the heartbeat of a mother to a newborn baby. Betty was once again content, in love, even. They traveled to Tuscany and stood in the Chianti hills watching the swallows and the swift clouds of slate-gray rain approaching. They took a boat through the fjords of Norway and another through the Galápagos Islands. They took a train through India from one palace to the next, imagining the vanished Raj and eating fragrant delicate curries. They did all these things together. And then, all these things stopped.

"Irreconcilable differences," Joe said.

"Oh, Joseph. What does that have to do with divorce?"

"I want to be generous," Joe said.

Generous? she thought. It was as if she were the maid and she was being fired. Would he offer her two months' salary? "You cannot be generous with what is mine," she said.

And the divorce, like horses in a muddy race, their sides frothing, was off and running.

The name of Joe's irreconcilable difference was Felicity, although Betty referred to her, pretending she could not remember the correct name, sometimes as Pleurisy, more often as Duplicity. But that was later, when Betty had surrendered the apartment on Central Park West. During the negotiations leading up to that move, Betty and her daughters were left to speculate, to surmise, and to suspect the existence of a Felicity to whom they had never been formally introduced.

"I will be generous to my wife," Joe told Felicity. "After all, I did spend almost fifty years of my life with the woman." When he said the words "my wife," it made Felicity glare at him. But he didn't notice, for when he said the word "fifty" it made him sad and confused. That was more than half his life. What was he doing? He was too old to be starting out fresh. But when the word "old" passed through his thoughts, that heavy, gloomy syllable, followed so closely by the word "fresh," his doubt passed and he uttered the word "woman" as if Betty were a rude ticket taker at a tollbooth, a stranger with her unmanicured hand out, and Felicity's glare softened.

"Of course you'll be generous," Felicity said. "You are a generous man. Anything you do will be generous, Joe." She took his hand and kissed it. "And I will help you, Joe," she said. "I'll help you be generous."

"Naturally I'll give her the apartment," Joe said. "It seems only right. We've lived in it all our lives. She's put so much work into it. It's her baby."

Felicity had seen the apartment. In a magazine. It sparkled and gleamed with a comforting Old World charm. Or so the magazine said. To Felicity, it just looked big and luscious, though the various shades of cream could do with a little splash of color, and some of the furniture seemed a bit rickety, antique or no antique. She would like to live in such an apartment. But she said, "Naturally." Then she looked thoughtfully at Joe, who sat on her own sofa in her own living room, a perfectly respectable place in Lincoln Towers that had once had a view of the Hudson River. She stood up and peered out the window at the Trump Towers that now blocked that view. "You bought that place for a song, didn't you?" she asked.

Joe smiled. "We did. We never missed a mortgage payment, either."

"You never missed a mortgage payment," Felicity corrected him.

"Yes, of course. That's true."

"Paid it from your salary?"

"Well, who else's salary would there be?" he asked. "Betty never worked a day in her life. Never had to. You know that."

Felicity did know that. She, on the other hand, had worked many days in her life.

"But it was her money that made the down payment," Joe added. He thought of himself as a fair man.

"A mere song," Felicity said. "You said so yourself."

Joe considered this. "Yes. Five thousand dollars down. Can you imagine?"

"And now the apartment is worth-what? Three million?"

"Oh, at least."

Felicity was silent, letting the implication sink in.

"That's quite a return on a five-thousand-dollar investment, isn't it?" he said.

"I suppose the upkeep is very high these days."

Joe nodded.

"It's really a burden, that big old place," Felicity said. "Poor Betty. I don't envy her. At her age."

"She ought to downsize," Joe said. "We should sell the place, and she can take her share and buy something a little more realistic."

"Joe, you really are a generous man," Felicity said. "And self-sacrificing, too."

He looked at her blankly. He knew he was generous and self-sacrificing, but just for a moment he could not quite make out how this act of taking half the proceeds, rather than none, fit that description. Then Felicity said, with some alarm, "But what about the taxes? There will be hardly anything left from the sale after taxes. Poor Betty." She saw it was six o'clock and made him his drink. "It really will be a burden on her, much more than on you. You have so many deductions. She doesn't. Not having a business."

Joe was not a stupid man, and he liked to think of himself as a generous man; but he loved the big, airy apartment Betty had made so comfortable for him, and he loved Felicity. Obviously the apartment would be too much for Betty to handle, he told himself. How could he have been so thoughtless, so insensitive?

"At her age," Felcity murmured again, as if reading his thoughts.

The apartment was far more suitable for him and Felicity. She was young and energetic. He was neither, but he was so used to the place. Was it fair that he should be thrown out of his own home just to pay good money to the government? It would be very bad judgment. It would bankrupt her with taxes. It would be cruel.

And so it was decided. Joe would be generous and keep the apartment.

Betty had been married before she met Joseph Weissmann. Her first husband had died suddenly and young in an automobile accident, leaving her with two little girls, Annie, age four, and Miranda, two. Joseph came into their lives just a year after the accident. He married Betty, and though they ate dinner in the kitchen before he came home from work and never saw him on the Saturdays when he went to the office, the girls took his last name, called him Josie, considered him their father, and loved him as if he were.

When Annie got the phone call from her mother announcing Joseph's discovery of irreconcilable differences after almost fifty years, she immediately urged a visit to a neurologist. Had Josie been complaining of headaches? Erratic behavior, headaches, dizziness: Of course it was a brain tumor. Did her mother remember her friend Oliver from graduate school? He died just like that. Betty had better get him to a doctor that day. Poor Josie.

"It's not a brain tumor," her mother said. Joseph was feeling better than he had in years. "And you know what that means."

Annie grudgingly accepted what her sister, Miranda, understood immediately.

"He is in love," Miranda said when Betty called her to tell her the news.

"I'm afraid he must be," Betty said.

The two women were silent. They were both believers in love. This love was heresy.

"What does Annie say?"

"She's going to speak to him. And she suggested I get a lawyer."

"A lawyer?" Miranda's voice was disapproving. "What does Josie say about that?"

"He suggested we use a mediator."

"This is not really happening," Miranda said.

And she, too, decided to see Josie.

"I am entitled to live my life," Joseph told them when they appeared together at his office. But there were tears in his eyes. "I am entitled to my life."

Both women were moved by the tears. And both agreed that he was entitled to his life, but with these provisos: Annie explained that the life Josie was entitled to was the life he had always lived, the one with their mother; Miranda, a more romantic soul, pointed out that while life must be lived to the fullest, Josie was no longer young, and his present life was surely full enough for someone his age.

"This is difficult for me, too," Joseph said. He squeezed his fists into his eyes like a child. The two women put their arms around him.

"Josie, Josie," they said softly, soothing the distinguished man in his pinstriped suit. They had never seen their stepfather cry.

He stood back and looked down at his two daughters, his "girls," and he saw that his girls were no longer girls. Miranda was as lovely in her skittish, eye-flashing way as ever, her light brown hair shining, grazing her shoulders, the style not much different from what she wore as a teenager. But now in her still-youthful beauty there was something willed and hard. As for Annie, she had never looked youthful, always so serious, her dark eyes taking everything in and giving nothing back. He could see a faint line of gray where her hair parted. She watched him anxiously. What could he do for her, his sad little girl? Decades ago, in his youth, a man in his position might have handed her some bills and told her to buy herself a hat to cheer herself up. He imagined her in a little velvet cocktail hat, inclined rakishly to one side. The incongruity of it made him want to shake her.

"I will be very generous to your mother," he said. "You can count on me for that."

And the daughters left the office, angry, disappointed, but hopeful for their mother's material comfort, at least.

"Hi, Felicity," they said with forced cheerfulness to the pretty VP who had initiated the increasingly successful online side of the business. There was no point in letting their misery show. Perhaps the whole thing could be patched up before Felicity and the others in the office knew anything about it.

"Well, at least they're not getting lawyers," Miranda said. "Lawyers are parasitic vultures."

"You're mixing unpleasant species characteristics."

"Vermin," Miranda said defiantly. Miranda was a literary agent and resented the legal profession on principle for interfering in matters that ought not to concern them, like her clients' contracts, but her experiences with lawyers had been particularly painful in the last six months. "They should mind their own business."

"Unfortunately, divorce sort of is their business. Some of them anyway."

Miranda had never been divorced herself. This, she knew, was only because she had never been married. She fell in love too easily, too frequently, too hard, to get married. Miranda loved to be in love. It was a pleasure she was willing to suffer for, but not give up. Right now she was in love with a ne'er-do-well day trader. She thought of him and felt a flutter of giddy admiration: his bare back bent over her computer in her dark bedroom late at night, the pained expression on his face illuminated by the big, bright monitor.

Love was one of the reasons she gave for never getting married, the primary one. But there was another. She had always been too busy, constantly on the phone barking out orders to her harassed assistant, flirting with a publisher on the hook, raising the spirits of a disappointed author. She specialized in the genre of what Annie dubbed the Lite Victory memoir. Her clients, the Awful Authors, as even Miranda called them, had always overcome something ghastly and lurid, something so ghastly and so lurid they had to write a ghastly and lurid book recounting every detail of their mortification and misery. At the end of the book, there was a nice epiphany, and since no one could really object to an epiphany, not even Annie, the books were very popular and Miranda had built a thriving agency that required her constant attention.

Until the lawyers got to it, she thought. "Vermin," she said again. "Ha! No divorce lawyer will ever dine on my flesh."

Annie said nothing. Miranda's antipathy to marriage was a point of contention between them. Annie had always maintained that Miranda simply lacked the imagination to get married.

"Marriage is too much like fiction for you," she once told Miranda. "Too unpredictable, too influenced by idiosyncratic characters."

Miranda, who considered herself a hopeless romantic, had replied, "Fiction has a plot, the same old plot. In what way is that unpredictable?"

"Because it all hangs on temperament, on personality, on serendipity and happenstance. On chance. Your books, and all your love affairs, are about control, losing it and then reasserting it."

To which assessment of the genre of memoir and the miracles of the heart Miranda would shake her head, smile pityingly at her benighted older sister, contemplate her puzzling insistence on always wearing such drab colors, and say gently, "I want to be free, Annie. And I am."

Then, invariably, the sisters would quote Louisa May Alcott at each other-"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain"-and move on to other things.

Now, as Miranda walked beside her sister, she wondered if Josie wanted to be free, free of Annie and herself. As well as their mother, of course.

"It's so sad," she said. "Lawyers would make it ugly as well." She felt her phone vibrating. When she saw who it was, she didn't answer.

"Christ," she muttered, but Annie didn't hear her.

"And expensive," Annie was saying. "They make it so expensive." That had certainly been her experience. She had been married, many years ago. She had two grown children to prove it. But her husband, such an intense, driven young man, had turned out to be a gambler. Annie hadn't seen him after the divorce, eighteen years ago, nor had he kept in touch with his children. She had been informed of his death, of leukemia, two years ago. "Nothing lasts," she said now, thinking of the waste that was love.

Miranda said, "You're so literal-minded."

And the two sisters continued down the street, arm in arm, affectionate and indulgent, each smiling a small, comfortable smile at her superiority to the other.

On leaving her stepfather's office, Annie had given Felicity Barrow a brave, friendly hello, yet she had never liked Felicity. Felicity had round, oversized eyes, bright blue eyes, like a child actor who knows how to act like a child. Annie respected her stepfather's colleague. She knew how hard Felicity worked and how much she had contributed to the company, but she knew of Felicity's accomplishments by way of Felicity. It was not that the woman boasted. Quite the opposite. She was modest to a fault, the fault being that she insinuated her modesty, deftly, into almost any conversation, proclaiming her insignificance and ignorance, thereby assuring a correction.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine Copyright © 2010 by Cathleen Schine. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

Just as Jane Austen delighted readers with wise heroines and surprising turns of fate, Cathleen Schine delivers a world of wry insight in each of her novels. With The Three Weissmanns of Westport, she brings Sense and Sensibility to modern-day Connecticut, where Betty Weissmann and her two middle-aged daughters have begun living as exiles. At age seventy-five, Betty has been dumped by her husband of nearly fifty years. He and his mistress have set up housekeeping in the sumptuous Manhattan apartment that Betty had called home for most of her adult life. Her daughter Miranda—a tough-as-nails literary agent—is facing bankruptcy after a series of scandals. Her other daughter, Annie, is smitten with the brother of her stepfather’s mistress. Banding together against a slew of looming crises, Betty, Miranda, and Annie find refuge in a run-down beach cottage owned by a generous cousin. While Betty discovers a wealth of personal strength, her daughters discover an intriguing, aristocratic community—whose population includes the handsome actor Kit Maybank.

Raising timeless questions of the heart, The Three Weissmanns of Westport is an ideal selection for reading groups. The topics that follow are designed to enhance your experience as you discuss this captivating novel of reason versus romance.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 154 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(23)

4 Star

(36)

3 Star

(32)

2 Star

(27)

1 Star

(36)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 154 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    once was enough

    I like Schine's writing and wanted to read this so much that I mistakenly bought it twice! Once turned out to be enough -- I never found the characters to be convincing enough for me to really care about them or believe that they were connected in any way beyond the plot contrivances. It absorbed me more at the beginning and at the ending, but the middle was a long lull at the beach.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2010

    Really enjoyable reading day

    This was the first of Cathleen Schine's books that I've read but I enjoyed it enough that I've purchased a few others of hers. The book takes place in CT and NY, both very familiar places to me. The character types are also familiar but because of that, I enjoyed it even more. Sharply drawn characters and detailed depiction of different types of women who all depend on each other.

    Loved her unique writing style. It struck me as a bit old-fashioned but because the book discussed very current themes, it made the whole experience even more enjoyable.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Three Women go to the beach because they are having Men Trouble

    This book was made out to be much better than it actually was. It was not very real and I was tired about hearing about all of the rejection from men. Life is more about life than men and who cares if they reject you. There is so much more about life than evolving yourself around men. I wished I would not have wasted my time!!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 31, 2010

    The Weissmanns are Wonderful

    A thoroughly enjoybale read that pulled me into the lives and travails of the characters instantly. Those quirky, charming, colorful and memorable characters. You care about them becasue they are so human and offbeat. I found that it was too short a story and would have loved to be with them a little longer. Perhaps the saga of the Weissmann women could go on and all the intersecting characters and subplots could as well. With flashbacks, of course. i have already recommended it to friends. And because I enjoyed it so much, I have become interested in reading more of author Cathleen Schine's work with which I was not familiar. I became interested enough to order this book after reading a review in the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2010

    My apologies to the writer.

    I simply could not get into this book and only read about half of it. The plot idea was so intriguing, and I was really excited about reading it. I even went to the store to pick it up right away because I couldn't wait for shipping. Very disappointed with the characters. They were so silly and self-centered. Perhaps someday I will pick it up again, but cannot think of a good reason why when there are so many good books out there to read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2010

    a comic novel with depth of feeling!

    loved the characters and was contantly surprised by the plot despite the Austin homage. A lovely intelligent novel about family relationships and the stages of romantic love.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    This is not Jane Austen

    This is the wordiest book! This book is for people who delight in other people's suffering. It was very overwhelming in that so many things happened to the characters. Sometimes there was a smile, but most times it was a furrowed brow.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2010

    Jane Austen's books are classics for a reason--leave them alone!

    I absolutely hated this book. HATED. I kept hearing so many good things about it (reviews, not word of mouth) so when the library got a copy in, I decided to give it a shot. I hated it fairly early on. I forgot that it was based on Sense & Sensibility, one of my favorite Jane Austen novels, so when I recognized this fact (pretty early on--you are pretty much beat over the head with it plot/character similarities) I was annoyed. It was just so irritating to have this author subvert a gloriously written classic novel into her boring prose and annoying characters. Schine didn't just base this novel on S&S, she pretty much followed it to the extent that it was distracting--I began anticipating the plot and renaming the characters in my head (oh, yeah, this is so and so from S&S). While I love Jane Austen's characters, despite and because of their flaws, I found Schine's characters simply ineffectual, stupid, and annoying. I found absolutely nothing humorous in the book, and couldn't relate to the wealthy NYC Jewish-ness of the characters. I began skimming about 3/4 of the way thru because I found it too irritating to read every sentence. I didn't care about the ending and how anyone ended up. Awful, awful book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2010

    Disappointing

    After reading a number of wonderful reviews of this book, I could not wait to buy and read it. I even recommended it to my book group. Instead of a nuanced, classic read, I found this book to be flat and the characters, for the most part, uninteresting. I found that I mostly did not care about what happened to any of them in the end. My advice for would-be readers is to stick with Sense and Sensibility.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014

    Loved the story and the writing.

    I didn't think I was going to like it at first but fell in love with the writing. Would really like a sequel to see how things turn out.

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

    Posted December 27, 2013

    loved this book

    this book took place in connecticut where i live. it was also the first book that i read on my nook. put all these things together and you come up with a great story that can be related to

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    Highly recommended

    Enjoying the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 24, 2013

    This is one of the worst books I have ever read. I only finishe

    This is one of the worst books I have ever read. I only finished it because once I start a book I'm compelled to read it to the end. It is almost 300 pages of the characters' constant complaining -- "kvetching," I believe it is called. The plot is totally contrived, with the same characters popping up everywhere. If I could give it no stars, I would. Jane Austen? Cathleen Schine can't tie Jane Austen's shoelaces!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2013

    Great!

    Loved this story. The characters are endearing and a joy to read about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    Loved It

    Not meant to rival Jane Austen. Sense & Sensibility is only an inspiration. Read it instead for the humor and truth of the overarching situations of the mother's & sisters' lives & loves. I was genuinely charmed. This is Shine's best novel. Her others are only fair; this one is excellent -- more than a beach read.

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

    Posted May 5, 2012

    Not my favorite

    This was mildly entertaining quick read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2012

    Horrible

    Only finished because it was our book club read. Terrible characters, stupid story. Don't waste your time.

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  • Posted January 31, 2012

    Witty and delightful

    I really loved the shadow of "Sense and Sensibility" in the storyline of the book. Since S and S is my fav of the Austen books it was fun to anticipate how the story would turn to follow the original story line. It is certainly not the same story -but similar nonetheless. Fast easy read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2011

    DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME!

    This book was terrible. I could barely get through it. It was painful to read. If I could give it no stars, I would.

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    I couldn't wait to finish it because it was so boring.

    The first few pages of this book seemed interesting. However, the more I read, the more boring it became. I was confused by all the different characters and how they were involved with each other. I finished the book even though I thought it was a complete waste of my time and money.

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