Saturday, March 7, 2009

Serendipity-Louise Shaffer

Louise Shaffer
Ballantine, Mar 24 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345502094

In New York, Rose Manning is a legendary philanthropist. How highly regarded is made quite clear to her daughter Carrie when Rose dies. A who’s who of causes arrives at her funeral to praise Rose. Carrie cannot help but notice not one of the accolades mentions Rose the friend or for that matter her late husband (and Carrie’s dad) brilliant Broadway composer Bobby Manning whose death changed the family dynamics; all the eulogies target Rose’s philanthropic activity. Even in death, her mom has left Carrie bitter, unwanted, and feeling like a failure unable to reach the humanitarian bar set by her cold to her, but warm to strangers mom..

While cleaning out Rose’s apartment, Carrie finds some strange secrets about her mom that she never shared with her. She would like to follow up with her maternal grandma but is somewhat estranged with the renowned stage actress Lu Lawson; the split occurred when she was a little girl and her daddy died. Instead she goes to New Haven to see Lu’s older brother octogenarian great-Uncle Paulie. He tells her the truth about Rose, Lu and Lu’s mom Mifalda; and how illegitimacy that seems to run through the generations. She follows that with a close friend of her parents and finally her maternal grandma.

This is an interesting family drama that looks at four generations of women with each having issues leaving estrangements between them. The story line is carried nicely by Carrie though at times she seems too naive for someone with her pedigree. Still fans will enjoy her sleuthing as she begins to go past the caricature of the happy altruist widow image to piece together the full puzzle of who her mom really was and what shaped her.

Harriet Klausner

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