cover image Summer Reading

Summer Reading

Hilma Wolitzer, . . Ballantine, $24.95 (251pp) ISBN 978-0-345-48586-1

The eighth novel from Wolitzer (The Doctor's Daughter ) opens as Alyssa (Lissy) Snyder—trophy second wife, reluctant stepmom, and major dyslexic—hosts a summer book discussion group. She's hoping to catch the attention of Ardith Templeton, who initiated the group and who, with her husband Larry, commands center stage in the tony Hamptons social scene. Retired English professor Angela Graves conducts the group, assigns the readings and tries to inspire her charges to take life lessons from the likes of Jane Eyre and Madame Bovary. Lissy gamely tries to read enough pages (or search out enough online commentary) to appear prepared—but Ardith rarely shows up. Meanwhile, Lissy's husband dotes on his children and begins spending time with his first wife. First-person chapters alternate among Lissy, Angela (who picks over old regrets), and Michelle Cutty, a young local who works as Lissy's summer maid and who provides some class-based frisson. There are small pleasures, but the trio of pretty endings is too hurried (and in Lissy's case too unearned) to be satisfying. (May)