cover image The Way Men Act

The Way Men Act

Elinor Lipman. Pocket Books, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-74840-1

In a second novel as enchanting as her first, Lipman ( Then She Found Me ) traces the untriumphant return of 30-year-old Melinda LeBlanc to her recently gentrified hometown of Harrow, Mass., after a decade of unfocused living in California. Moved in to the third floor of her mother's house, working as a designer at the Forget-Me-Not florist shop owned by her cousin, Melinda wonders why her former high school classmates are married while she--``ever-popular . . . a good dancer and a fun date''--is not. With bracing, always affectionate humor, Lipman records the complications developing between Melinda and Libby Getchel, another newly returned, unmarried Harrow native who opens a dressmaking shop on Main Street, and wary, divorced Dennis Vaughan, trout fishing expert and black Harrow High graduate whose Brookhoppers store is a haven for New England anglers. Gamely pursuing all chances for romance, outspoken Melinda offers counsel on sex and love to others (including her mother, who is muffled in an unsatisfactory second marriage to a traveling salesman) until a series of unexpected betrayals among friends and family leads her to take charge of her life and heart. Deft, warm characterization distinguishes this romance with a modern sensibility and nice old-fashioned resolution. BOMC selection. (Mar.)