cover image Hanging Up

Hanging Up

Delia Ephron. Putnam Adult, $23.95 (307pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14052-5

The telephone plays an integral part in screenwriter and nonfiction author Ephron's (How to Eat Like a Child) humorous, if somewhat uncomfortable, look at the senility and death of a parent. Narrator Eve Mozell loves to chat on the phone, playing out nearly all of her relationships by talking into a plastic mouthpiece. Now 44 but still in the role of the unremarkable, overcompensating middle daughter, Eve finds the care of her elderly, alcoholic father foisted upon her by her sisters Georgia, an overbearing magazine editor, and Madeline, a dippy soap opera actress. With little support from either her work-absorbed husband, a public radio commentator, or her teenaged son, Eve struggles to understand the Mozell family neuroses. Flashbacks highlight her parents' scotch-soaked divorce, her mother's subsequent abandonment of the family and her father's descent into alcoholism and general obnoxiousness. Appropriately, a telephone relationship with a stranger helps Eve come to terms with the simultaneous love and disgust she feels for her father. All the phone talk makes the narrative dialogue-heavy, and most of Ephron's characters are gratingly self-absorbed. However, Eve's wry humor and gentle tolerance for these eccentrics and the foibles of life leaven the proceedings nicely, rendering this a novel few readers will hang up on. (July)