Elinor Lipman

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The Family Man

  • 2009 (Hardcover), 2010 (Paperback)
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Mariner
  • Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, iBook, Audio

A hysterical phone call from Henry Archer's ex-wife and a familiar face in a photograph upend his well-ordered life and bring him back into contact with the child he adored, a short-term stepdaughter from a misbegotten marriage long ago.

Henry is a courtly lawyer, gay, successful, lonely. Thalia is now 29, an actress-hopeful, estranged from her newly widowed crackpot mother, Denise, Henry's ex. She agrees to pose as the girlfriend of an unsavory actor who is forlornly down on his romantic luck. When Thalia and her complicated social life move into the basement of Henry's Upper West Side townhouse, she finds a champion in her long-lost father, and he finds peace in the commotion.

Read an interview with Elinor at Loaded Questions with Kelly Hewitt.

Reviews and praise

"Elinor Lipman's social satire is Larry David without the high-pitched whine. Her novels have the clean, airy lines of P.G. Wodehouse and E.F. Benson. Her irony is not mean, not at the expense of any particular race, creed or color. Things get messy, but the promise of resolution allows for a beautiful circulation in her writing—a reader doesn't feel indignant; body parts do not clench. No one is trying to manipulate you into feeling something. It's hard (even annoying) to have to put her novels, including this latest, 'The Family Man,' down." The Los Angeles Times

"A divorced gay man's vanquished paternalism returns when he reconnects with his long-lost stepdaughter in Lipman's hilarious and moving 10th novel. Set in New York, the book opens with Henry Archer phoning his ex-wife, Denise, to offer condolences over the death of her husband, the man Denise divorced then-closeted Henry for. Upon visiting Denise, Henry notices photos of now grown stepdaughter Thalia, a charming wannabe actress he recognizes from the hair salon in his neighborhood, and determines to reenter her life. What ensues is a heartwarming reconnection as Henry and Thalia relearn what it means to be a father and daughter, respectively. When Thalia is hired by a PR firm to play the role of real-life girlfriend to a struggling actor, Henry's fatherly instinct and legal background compel him to ask Thalia to move in with him and to serve as her attorney. During the process of managing Thalia's career, Henry also grows closer to Denise, meets a handsome man and rediscovers the joy of family. The plot alone will suck in readers, but Lipman's knack for creating lovable and multifaceted characters is the real draw." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"So, divorced, gay Henry reunites with his stepkid, who's now an actress hired to pretend to date a C-list celeb, and she moves into Henry's house. How can that not be funny?" Entertainment Weekly (5/8/09) "Must List"

"In The Family Man, a sparkling, sprightly comedy—Elinor Lipman's 10th—dapper Manhattan attorney Henry Archer gets the shock of his life when he realizes the receptionist he's just tipped is none other than his stepdaughter, Thalia, whom he hasn't seen in 25 years. Before long, Thalia's back in his life (ensconced in his maisonette apartment, in fact), and Henry's got his hands full with her, his endlessly chatty ex-wife Denise, a new lover, and the countless others who wander in and out of his elegant Upper West Side brownstone. As always, the pleasure of a Lipman book is not so much the wispy plot but the original, funny, achingly human characters. Grade: A" Entertainment Weekly

"With all the requisite elements, including sparkling dialog, a clash of personalities, and delightfully flawed characters—not to mention unusual family situations and overbearing matriarchs—this book offers readers hints of Lipman's previous books, from Then She Found Me to The Dearly Departed. When the comfortably wealthy and homosexual Henry Archer's recently widowed ex-wife, Denise Krouch, reappears after 24 years, his ordered life is turned upside down... Evocative of both Jane Austen and Entertainment Weekly, this will be another hit with Lipman fans. Highly recommended." Library Journal

"Just because something is 'light' doesn't mean it's not masterful. Lipman's use of dialogue, for instance, is exquisite. ...Though I read this book twice, I see that I stopped taking notes both times halfway through. Lipman mesmerized me. She hypnotized me. I admit it freely: I fell victim to the Elinor Lipman Effect." Carolyn See, Washington Post [Read the full review]

"Her world view? Her enthusiasm, her effortless wit? Just a few of the reasons we love Elinor Lipman. Lipman's characters are keenly observant. What they observe is a harmony that feels almost subversive, that things not only can turn out well, that they probably will, that life can—at least at certain moments—indeed feel charmed." Jane Vandenburgh , The Boston Globe [Read the full review]