“We weren’t the only ones.”
“No kidding. . . . Why do you think we had to start our own hotels?”
One day, a Mrs. Marx of Newton Massachusetts dashes off a letter to a Vermont inn, inquiring about vacation accommodations. The reply letter makes it clear that “Our guests who feel most comfortable here . . . are Gentiles. Very truly yours . . . “
The Marx family’s plot to book the same nice vacations that everybody else enjoys launches Elinor Lipman’s novel, The Inn at Lake Devine. I realize that sounds like a caper comedy, but Inn’s pleasures are more subtle than that. This book has Gentiles professing that some of their best friends are Jews. It has apologies and second chances. It has children working overtime to please adults, just so a wish will be granted. It has mothers embarrassed beyond endurance. It has broad hints and backhanded compliments dropped on the clueless. It has mortal danger, along with bodies breaking down over problems of the heart.
Did I say problems of the heart? Does that mean romance? Yes, it does. And here at Read Fast, Eat Slow, we like our romance snuck in. We like the lovers to resemble real people, not impossible heroes or unattainable heroines. Inn has crushes as well as grown-up love (the story spans a couple decades). Get yourself a dose of “Come on and kiss that girl!” here.
Lipman’s novel portrays an era when Jews found themselves barred from the best country clubs, restaurants and fraternities. In fact, on the Acknowledgments page of her book, she says her mother “remembered after thirty-five years the exact wording of the letter from the hotel on the lake.
Photo credit: shaggyhill via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND
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