Private Means

Grove. May 2020. 240p. ISBN 9780802148889. $26.
Alice and Peter are enjoying an enviable upper-middle-class existence in Manhattan, yet they are unhappy. Alice is a scientist studying the physics of starling murmurations, but her intellectual pursuits are merely amateur; motherhood intervened just after she received her PhD, throwing her off the academic track. Her husband, Peter, is a prominent psychoanalyst, but lately he’s been suffering from burnout. The couple are recent empty-nesters—their twin daughters are in college across the country at Berkeley—and the marriage has gone cold. Worse, Alice’s beloved dog has been lost by an incompetent dog walker. Alice is at crisis level when she meets a handsome stranger at a dog owners’ group. The novel’s point of view flits adroitly between husband and wife as they overthink their problems in a fuzz of psychobabble.
VERDICT LeFavour, author of the memoir Lights On, Rats Out, is an award-winning cookbook writer, but don’t expect a foodie novel. Fans of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble or Ann Beattie’s short stories will enjoy this wry, sophisticated, and intelligent rendering of modern, privileged city life. [See Prepub Alert, 12/9/19.]

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