cover image Lech


Sara Lippmann. Tortoise, $18.99 trade paper (326p) ISBN 978-1-948954-69-3

Lippmann takes a vivid look at the Catskills in her charming debut novel (after the collection Jerks). The paths of several lonely characters intertwine in rural Sullivan County in summer 2014. Noreen, a real estate agent, grew up there, and reflects on her Borscht Belt glory days, when her parents worked at a series of long-gone hotels. There’s also Beth, who is holed up in a rental while emotionally recovering from an abortion; Noreen’s 19-year-old daughter, Paige; and a 60-something local divorcé named Ira “Lech” Lecher. The characters seek comfort in different ways. Beth strikes up an affair with Lech, who occasionally sleeps with Noreen, while Paige dreams of leaving for Florida. The various threads sometimes feel scattered, and there’s not much of a plot, but Lippmann has a knack for punchy dialogue (when Beth says her car is “bigger than a Smart car,” Lech responds, “Can it do my taxes?”), and maintains a steady stream of commentary on the flailing region and the characters’ mixed feelings about outsiders (while Noreen would welcome gentrification, Paige scorns the “invad[ing]” tourists: “plastic shells humping roofs like suspicious growths”). Lippmann’s amiable writing makes for great company. Agent: Jenni Ferrari-Adler, Union Literary. (Oct.)