"The Family Markowitz is one of the most astute and engaging books about American family life to have come our way in quite a while." Linda Matchan, Boston Globe
In The Family Markowitz, Allegra Goodman writes with wit and compassion of three generations of Markowitzes making their way in America. At the center is Rose, the cantankerous matriarch, who longs for her earlier life in London and Vienna but is now forced into dependency on her sons Ed, an academic expert on terrorism (ahead of his time!), and Henry, an artistic expatriate with a taste for antiques and postmodern poetry. Also in the family circle are Sarah, Ed's wife, who teaches creative writing and longs for a more literary life, and Sarah and Ed's daughter Miriam, a medical student who causes great alarm in her largely assimilated family by rediscovering Judaism.
Through her sharp-eyed observations of weddings, hospital vigils, holiday dinners, and other rituals of family life, Goodman writes about the Markowitzes from the inside, bringing each character to life.
Goodman's voice is fresh and distinctive as she limns a wry, funny, touching portrait of an American Jewish family in a brilliantly observed, lovingly rendered novel composed of interlocking stories. Rose Markowitz, stubborn, outspoken, kvetching, a survivor and an individualist whose youth was spent in Vienna and London during WWII, is 73, living with her second husband in Manhattan, when we first meet her. He dies, and for most of the book, Rose, now in her 80s, copes with lonely widowhood in Venice, Calif., where her bachelor son, Henry, an art gallery manager, lures her to live. But soon he splits for Oxford, England, to become an Anglophile scholar and aesthete. Rose's other son, Ed, a Georgetown University historian of the Middle East and media pundit on terrorism, is, in Henry's eyes, a rank apologist for the PLO. Sarah, Ed's novelist/poet wife, is a frustrated fame-seeker, distracted from her writing by having to raise four children. Their daughter Miriam, a Harvard Med student, surprises her secular, liberal parents by embracing Orthodox ritual observance. Goodman (Total Immersion), who has published sections of this work in the New Yorker and Commentary, combines delicious comic set pieces with deeper meditations and conversations on Jewish identity, God, frazzled relationships and the breakdown of family life. (Sept.)