cover image All This Belongs to Me

All This Belongs to Me

Ad Hudler, . . Ballantine, $13.95 (252pp) ISBN 978-0-345-48107-8

In this comedy predicated on off-camera tragedy, Geena Pangborn's upper crust in-laws blame Geena for her son's death—and uptight husband Barry isn't backing her. She takes off from Colorado, and, just as her money is running out, an incident with a mail truck leaves her in possession of the credit card belonging to one Ellis Norton of Fort Myers, Fla., whose name is conveniently not gender marked. Using the card to fund the trip, Geena tracks down Ellis, ostensibly to stay on the road, and then pay him or her back. Ellis turns out to be a 60-something savantlike Thomas Edison fanatic and lifelong bachelor. A resourceful, fast-talking fibber, Geena poses as a reporter wanting to do a feature on Fort Myers, and slowly and amusingly worms her way into Ellis's life, such as it is, while taking stock of her own. Meanwhile, Ellis is fixated on the inner lives of Edison and his wife, Mina, which allows further meditations on marriage and loss. Hudler, a Fort Myers resident, has written two other lite novels, Househusband and Southern Living . His ability to balance romantic and comedic scenes, and his intriguing presentation of the biographical material about Edison, smooth over most of the rough edges. The whimsical plot frequently strains credulity, though, and the surprise ending lands heavily indeed. (On sale Jan. 31)