THE GOOD PEOPLE OF NEW YORK
Gracefully shifting her focus from short story to novel, Nissen—John Simmons Short Fiction Award winner (Out of the Girls' Room and into the Night)—weaves a charming tale with candid humor and a sharp eye for detail. Spirited and feisty Roz Rosenzweig and idealistic Nebraskan Edwin Anderson are as unlikely a couple as Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in The Way We Were, but somehow they end up tying the knot in 1970s New York City. They have a daughter, Miranda, but the marriage falls apart by the time she is in fifth grade. Newly single Roz vows to "be the fabulous mom-who's-more-like-a-friend-than-a-mom mom" but has a hard time squelching her irrepressible Jewish-mother instincts. Miranda, a precociously sexy near-teenager, sometimes plays along with Roz and sometimes rebels—she is particularly peeved when her mother starts dating her orthodontist. At school, Miranda proves to be a budding drama queen, and as she gets older, becomes entangled in a series of prickly relationships. She could sometimes use her mom's help as she fumbles audaciously through adolescence, but is too proud to admit it. Roz, concurrently coming of age, tentatively attempts to become the focus of her own life. Nissen's descriptions of life in New York in the '70s and '80s are spot-on, and she clearly loves the novel's characters—even the least likable are sympathetic and forgiven their foibles. Astute characterizations and smart, snappy dialogue anchor an honest, funny portrayal of an inevitably heartbreaking but loving relationship. Agent, Eric Simonoff. (May 30)
Forecast:Equipped with a stellar set of blurbs (from Charles Baxter, Ann Beattie and Chris Offut, among others), a fetching subway-inspired jacket and an enticing title, this engaging debut work has a good chance of differentiating itself from countless similar New York coming-of-age novels.