The Heights, by Peter Hedges (New York: Dutton, 2010)
"Tim Welch is a popular history teacher at the Montague Academy, an exclusive private school in Brooklyn Heights, New York: 'I was an odd-looking, gawky kid, but I like to think my rocky start forced me to develop empathy, kindness, and a tendency to be enthusiastic. All of this, I'm now convinced, helped me in my quest to be worth of Kate Oliver.' Kate is not ordinary, but she aspires to be. She stays at home with their two young sons in a modest apartment, trying desperately to become the parent she never had. Tim and Kate are seemingly the last middle-class family in the Heights, happily getting by, until one day their neat and tidy world is turned upside down by Anna Brody, the new neighbor who moves into the most expensive brownstone in Brooklyn.
"Anna is not only beautiful and wealthy; she's also impulsive. And for reasons Kate doesn't quite understand, even as all of the Range Rover-driving moms jockey for access into Anna's circle, Anna sets her sights on Kate and Tim and brings them into her world. It's fun -- dizzyingly fun, in fact -- to pretend for a while that they belong to her life of privilege and excess. Then a secret invitation comes in a plain white envelope from an unlikely messenger, and the games Tim and Kate have been playing become a lot more complicated."
"That morning we woke to find our street buried in snow."
Yawn. An OK book as these things go, but I really think I'm over this upper-middle-class chick lit phase for a while. Kate gets an offer she can't refuse to go back to work for an old boss, and Tim decides to take a sabbatical from teaching to care for the boys and finally finish his long-overdue dissertation. In the course of the year, both become besotted with Anna in different ways. An erotic frisson builds between Tim and Anna, under the guise of play dates between Tim and Kate's boys, Teddy and Sam, and Anna's cherubic daughter Sophie. Meanwhile, Kate becomes star-struck as Anna seems to choose her as her new best friend, going so far as to give Kate an evening gown with a 5-figure price tag that later turns out to have been Anna's wedding dress.
Again, decent story, but the climax and resolution seem pretty half-hearted. Glad today is librart day.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.