cover image Small World

Small World

Laura Zigman. Ecco, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-308828-3

In Zigman’s entrancing and thorny latest (after Separation Anxiety), two sisters confront the childhood death of their middle sister. After living in Los Angeles for 30 years, Lydia Mellishman moves in with her younger sister, Joyce, in Cambridge, Mass. Both women are divorced and childless, and are hopeful that rooming together will mean they can finally develop a bond. Lydia, however, remains her old bristly self: she’s rude and inconsiderate of Joyce’s feelings, especially after Lydia befriends their new neighbors Sonia and Stan, who disrupt Joyce’s life with the noise of their illegal yoga studio. As the narrative flits between the present and the sisters’ childhood, it becomes clear that their dynamic is fueled by having been neglected as children by their mother, Louise. Despite Joyce’s stutter and Lydia’s dyslexia, Louise directed her attention toward their sister Eleanor, who had cerebral palsy and died from the flu when she was 10. Later, Louise continued focusing on advocacy work for children with special needs. After Joyce’s job as an archivist leads her to someone from Louise’s circle, Lydia shares a secret, and the sisters find an opportunity for reckoning. Zigman does a stellar job of creating well-rounded characters, and a satisfying ending tops off her well-crafted paean to sisterhood. Readers will love this. Agent: Stephanie Rostan, Levine Greenberg Rostan. (Jan.)