Lynne Sharon Schwartz prefaces her urban comedy with this bit of wisdom: "The true narrative form of our time is the sitcom." In the Family Way, Schwartz's personal Three's Company, is populated by an extended Manhattan family who dwell in an Upper West Side apartment building like bees in a hive. Their queen is, appropriately enough, Bea, a wild-haired, warm-hearted, middle-aged caterer who once was married to Roy, a therapist. Roy, however, left her for cool Serena, who in turn left Roy for Bea's sister May. Now all live under the same roof, along with several of their children and Roy's third wife, Lisa, who is the math teacher of Roy and Bea's daughter Sara--who, incidentally, prefers to be called Shimmer. Bea is having an affair with the super, Dmitri, a Russian given to poetic flights which come thudding to earth when he misremembers his thesaurus. (He whispers ardently to her, "My love. My wild orchid. My landscape with the secret bog.") Meanwhile, Bea's mother, the landlady, is busily trying to lure Oscar, the doorman, into bed. Three of the tribe become pregnant, yielding a climactic three-babies-in-one-night set piece that caps a novel crowded with delightfully implausible coincidence.

Anyone familiar with Schwartz's exquisite Disturbances in the Field--unaccountably out of print--knows her to be a serious and ambitious novelist. So what's she doing in Full House territory? Writing a damned entertaining novel, that's what, and using comic form to comment caustically on the way we live now. Roy, for instance, tells himself, "as he often told his patients: Not all guilt is something you want to get rid of. Some guilt is justified--if, that is, you choose to inhabit a moral universe." Bea and her family earnestly want to live in a moral universe, but don't quite, and their ambivalence and guilt give Schwartz's frolic a sour, pungent undercurrent. It's the taste of reality's failures, and it turns out to be what sitcoms have been missing all along. --Claire Dederer

Genre: Sagas

Used availability for Lynne Sharon Schwartz's In the Family Way

Hardback Editions

September 1999 : USA Hardback
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Title: In the Family Way: An Urban Comedy
Author(s): Lynne S Schwartz
ISBN: 0-688-17071-4 / 978-0-688-17071-4 (USA edition)
Publisher: William Morrow
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Paperback Editions

October 2000 : USA Paperback
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Title: In the Family Way: An Urban Comedy
Author(s): Lynne S Schwartz
ISBN: 0-688-17790-5 / 978-0-688-17790-4 (USA edition)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU