cover image SINGLE WIFE


Nina Solomon, . . Algonquin, $23.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-1-56512-382-3

Most men who leave their wives have the courtesy to (at least) leave a note, but not journalist Laz Brookman. At the start of this charming first novel, he casually leaves his New York apartment one morning and never returns: "He left as if he were going... to buy the Sunday Times (although they had it delivered) or to walk the dog (but they had none)." Anxious to save face and preserve the precarious normality of her life, and certain that he will soon return—mysterious several-day-long disappearing acts not being uncommon with her husband—Grace Brookman secretly begins living two lives, Laz's and her own. For the housekeeper's benefit, she rumples up the sheets on his side of the bed; for the neighbors', she blasts his favorite CDs. The absent Laz lurks on the periphery of Grace's life: a friend remarks that she has seen Laz being interviewed on TV, and others casually mention having received e-mail from him. It soon becomes apparent to Grace that even when her husband was physically present, he was keeping enormous secrets and problems from her—and that she now must step in to solve them, all the while keeping up her elaborate pretense. This imaginative and affecting debut is full of insightful characterizations and sharp, incisive language. Against Grace's constant awareness of her loss of Laz, the interplay of complex dynamics among the main players in her upper-middle-class New York life—her Scrabble-obsessed parents, their charming and dysfunctional friends the Sugarmans and her too-perceptive friend Kane—take on a tender, luminous intensity. Even better, Solomon knows how to confound her readers' preconceptions even as she carries her captivating premise to a surprising denouement. Gripping and dreamy, this tale will please fans of Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman, and win Solomon her own legion of readers. Agent, Irene Skolnick. (June 12)

Forecast:There's a whiff of Woody Allen to Solomon's spot-on Manhattan settings, and handselling in New York (as well as to New York-ophiles around the country) could net excellent results.