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Model Home

by Eric Puchner |

REVIEWED BY RICHARD EISENBERG

NOVEL

A clever send-up of the Reagan-era’s Morning in America mentality, this debut novel centers on Warren Ziller, a California real estate developer going for broke. Literally. His big bet on a desert housing complex is bankrupting his toxic family, though he’s keeping that news to himself. But when the Chrysler disappears from his Palos Verdes driveway and the furniture guys haul away the living room set, his mixed-up kids (one son wears all orange) get suspicious. A neighbor notices that Warren seems “a bit…on edge.” Wife Camille, a loopy sex-ed videomaker (Earth to My Body: What’s Happening?), remains oblivious—gleefully charging a cashmere shawl to take her mind off the couple’s loveless marriage. Worried that her husband is cheating (she’s premature on that), Camille aims a garden hose at the shirts Warren is air-drying in order to save on cleaning bills. Just as you’re settling in to the quaint days of pay phones and Atari video games, a ghastly incident turns the second half of the book into a wrenching series of soul-searching episodes. Puchner’s well-constructed tale of a house of pain built on a foundation of secrets echoes Updike and Easton Ellis. After spending time with these suburban strivers, though, you’ll be glad the ’80s are long gone.

The Wife’s Tale

by Lori Lansens |

REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSINGER

NOVEL

Bestseller Lansens’ latest novel centers on Mary Gooch, 43 years old, 5’6″ and 302 lbs. Her world is constricted not only by size but by grief. Mary measures her life in pounds gained—father’s death: 10 lbs.; second miscarriage: 20. Food acts as protection and comfort. When, on the eve of her 25th wedding anniversary, her husband vanishes, Mary sets off in search of him. Lansens’ clear prose unveils the connection between a body weighed down by flesh and a spirit smothered by loneliness. Mary’s odyssey of heartache and hope is not so much about finding her husband as it is about rediscovering herself.

The Whale

by Philip Hoare | REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

NON-FICTION

A love letter to the “largest, loudest, oldest” mammal ever to have existed, Brit biographer Hoare’s book romps through science, history and literature to chronicle his obsession with the mighty whale. Salted with astounding facts (the calls of blue whales were once mistaken for earthquakes), this is an exhilarating valentine.

You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up

by Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn |

REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

NON-FICTION

Anyone who’s ever found themselves humming the Captain and Tennille on the subject of marriage will find a different view here: It’s not love that keeps us together but lust, lactose intolerance and a shared hatred for the neighbors. In he-said/she-said chapters, husband and wife writer-performers Gurwitch and Kahn have written a laugh-out-loud screed about marriage and its discontents. It’s the perfect chaser to Valentine’s Day.