cover image My Ex-Life

My Ex-Life

Stephen McCauley. Flatiron, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-12243-8

The wry, bittersweet seventh novel by McCauley (The Object of My Affection) transports its hero into the life that might have been his if things had turned out differently. Fifty-something David Hedges, who makes an adequate living in San Francisco coaching the children of wealthy parents through the college application process, has recently been dumped by his boyfriend, and the cheap apartment he rents is up for sale. So when Julie Fiske, to whom he was briefly married before he came to terms with being gay, asks him to join her at her sprawling, decaying house in a seaside town north of Boston to get her unmotivated daughter, Mandy, in shape for her senior year in high school, he gladly accepts. Plot isn’t McCauley’s strong point: Most readers will see every twist coming, and a subplot involving Mandy’s involvement with a local creep who drives around in a van hitting on teenaged girls has an after-school special feel. It’s the author’s confused but lovable characters, and his plentiful one-liners—like David’s recognition that he “had rarely worked with a parent who did not describe her child as ‘gifted’ ”—that provide the charm. This comedy of manners is a summery confection tinged with awareness of a coming autumn. (May)