BETTER HOMES AND HUSBANDS
Release date: 06/01/2004
Leff serves up a slice of the good life in this group portrait novel, following the lives of the residents of an exclusive prewar co-op building in New York City from the 1970s to the present day. The denizens of 980 Park Avenue have little in common except for their tony address on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Genial attorney Dick Sapphire, the building's first Jewish resident, struggles through the suicide of his first wife and the career ambitions of a second. Mrs. Coddington, an archetypal WASP, presides over the building's co-op board and spends her boorish husband's ample wealth. Angela Somoza, granddaughter of a Latin dictator, defies her heritage by smuggling in illegal Guatemalan freedom fighters and denouncing the anti-Semitism of the co-op board. Battles of race, religion and ideology give an edge to this cozy chronicle. Leff provides plenty of glittering details, but she doesn't neglect the lives of the building's service people, like elevator operator Vinnie, who becomes a fashion designer. Her protagonists are types, but Leff is skilled at teasing out their small idiosyncrasies. Sedate and slightly old-fashioned, this is a warmhearted, generously imagined New York story. Agent, Bill Contardi. (June)
Forecast: Local sales should be strongest for this novel, an interesting counterpart to Cheryl Mendelson's 2003 novel Morningside Heights, which was set on the Upper West Side and was (predictably) more academic in tone.