By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

The View From Penthouse B, by Elinor Lipman

“Since Edwin died, I have lived with my sister Margot in the Batavia, an Art Deco apartment building on beautiful West Tenth Street in Greenwich Village.  This arrangement has made a great deal of sense for us both: I lost my husband without warning, and Margot lost her entire life’s saving to the Ponzi schemer whose name we dare not speak.”

In The View From Penthouse B, by Elinor Lipman, Gwen-Laura, the middle sister between traditionally married Betsy, and the daring, but perpetually angry Margot, recounts the life of genteel poverty that she and her sister enjoy.  Margot has every right to be furious, since not only did she lose everything to Bernie Madoff, but her husband, a well known fertility specialist, was convicted and jailed for providing “personal insemination services” to his patients.  When not ranting about her now ex-husband Charles, Margot spends time writing her blog, “The Poor House,” and coming up with recipes for cheaper cuts of meat.

After two years, Gwen-Laura still mourns her husband, who died of an undiagnosed heart condition as he slept beside her.  They lived a simple, childless life, full of affection and music.  After Edwins’s death, Gwen-Laura’s job as a writer for utility bill inserts dried up, though she has  formed a vague  idea of  starting a dating business for older people who just want companionship that she has christened, Chaste Dates.

Margot meets Anthony, a twenty-something, unemployed hedge fund manager, on a picket line in front of an investment bank; she ends up asking him to move into the  penthouse.   Anthony fits in well  at this unusual boardinghouse.  “Anthony approached our meals and conversations as if he’d scored an orchestra seat to a sold-out show.”  Soon the three roommates  become deeply enmeshed in each other’s lives, as they try  to help each other with romance, careers and family issues.

This charming, funny, character-driven novel implants readers firmly within Greenwich Village — a visit to Queens is as far as Gwen-Laura strays.  Yet Lipman’s themes are universal:  the search for love, no matter the age or sexual orientation of the seeker; the pain and relief of forgiveness; the love of family, and the enduring habits born of birth order.

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