Cohen's first novel, a nice little fable for our time, is a situation comedy in print. Having lived all his life in a small town near Philadelphia, flaky Max Lakeman cannot believe his good fortune. He is married to Nelly, a bantering hospital nurse, is the father of button-cute Ben and Nora, the son of wonderfully intact parents, retired railroad conductor Emmett and stereotypically critical Doris. Max adores mowing lawns, a job which, in this story's never-never land, allows him weeks off during spring and summer. Max embellishes the humdrum with dreams of ogres in the night, his hero JFK by day, and finally the divine Mrs. Zeno who appears first in a rhododendron bush at dusk, then as Venus on the half shell at sea, and finally, as a new customer with time for afternoon delights to which Max succumbs, to his peril. This sentimental and classically moral fiction, already optioned for a movie, seems a throwback designed by Frank Capra as a vehicle for young Jimmy Stewart. (Mar.)
Max Lakeman, a modern-day Walter Mitty, leads an unremarkable suburban life that is a source of joy to him to a degree beyond the comprehension of others. He can be forgiven for conversing with an image of John F. Kennedy that materializes regularly on a neighbor's front lawn. But when his imaginary lover's husband begins practicing medicine at the local hospital, the line between reality and the world of his imagination is crossed, changing this simple contemporary novel into a lighthearted fantasy. The story is peopled by true-to-life characters who represent good and bad in ordinary rather than heroic ways. The style is light and quick, without missing the opportunity to make pointed comments about the nature of love and loyalty.-- Marcia R. Hoffman, Hoechst Celanese Corp., Somerville, N.J.