cover image What Is Missing

What Is Missing

Michael Frank. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-29838-8

Following the memoir The Mighty Franks, Frank’s memorable debut novel showcases father-son relationships and the primal drive to have children. Teenager Andrew Weissman meets Costanza, an Italian-American woman whose famous novelist husband died the previous year, while in Florence with his divorced father, Henry. Then Henry, an infertility specialist, meets Costanza in a museum, and the novel follows a quasi-Oedipal track with father and son attracted to the same captivating woman. Henry and Costanza’s romance takes center stage, as does their desire to conceive a child together, but Costanza and Andrew have a connection that makes Henry uneasy. Frank delves into how Henry’s hubris sabotages his relationships, shows Andrew feeling alienated by Henry, and explores how Costanza comes to grips with her complex marriage. The novel is filled with trenchant moments of sweetness and betrayal, as well a stunning reveal of the harrowing gauntlet infertile women go through to conceive. This is an intricate and dynamic examination of familial ties: both what strengthens them and what can tear them apart.[em] (Oct.) [/em]