This book was a most pleasant surprise. It was a good read with characters that seemed real and alive. First we have Fin. He is an intuitive, charming young man. At age 11, an orphan after his mother’s death, he begins a new life with a guardian, his half-sister, Lady. Lady is only in her early 20’s, just twelve years older than Fin. She is a bit of an innocent on the one hand and an Auntie Mame, on the other; she is a flamboyant, free spirit and free thinker most of the time, but sometimes, she is prone to doubt. Lady has a past, which we slowly discover, and it definitely affects the way she looks at life. There is one truth throughout the whole novel, Lady adores Fin, and he adores her. Together, with his dog Gus, they share their life with Mabel, the housekeeper. Mabel, who is not shy about voicing her own opinion, adds another colorful, but more stable dimension to the family.
Lady has several beaus. Fin is assigned the task of finding her an appropriate mate for life before she gets too old. Jack Jordan is immature, wealthy and arrogant, a couple of years younger than Lady. Tyler Morrison is the lawyer in charge of Fin’s estate and was once her lover and fiancé. Biffy Deutsch is a survivor of the Holocaust and the most honorable and kindest of the three. He is genuine and has no ulterior motives other than his love for Lady and his respect for Fin. His mom is an eccentric older woman whose odd behavior is a result of the effects of WWII upon her. She is afraid of losing whatever valuables she owns, she is lucky to have escaped Hungary. Phoebe is Fin’s friend and neighbor. She is pretty sophisticated for a girl only one year ahead of him in school. They both attend a very progressive school. Joan and Myrna join with Lady to make up a triumvirate of friends.
When Fin is in Italy, he meets Donatella. At the same time, he meets Lady’s new beau, Michelangelo. The book moves into their developing future. Lady and Fin, along with another character who comes to light more fully at the end of the book, 60 years later, share a common bond, they are all orphans. They must be resilient and learn to face, and live with, loss. Through a tragic twist of fate, at the age of 18, Fin becomes the guardian of another orphan, Lydia, just two years old.
The story is set in a time of turmoil in America, the time of the flower children and peaceniks, the civil rights movement, the silent majority and the free-thinking, pot smoking hippies. Viet Nam is raging with an unwinnable war, and in America, anti-war demonstrations take center stage. It is the time of Woodstock and the Beatles rise to fame. America will come of age over the next several decades, just as Fin does. He has to deal with many changes, and he rises to the occasion, largely because of his own courage, but also because of the support of some special people around him.
The story of Lady and Fin is tender and multi-faceted. Lady was larger than life and Fin was mature beyond his years; he would listen quietly to bits of conversation to glean information about his future and his sister. I really liked the story. It is original and creative; it is a story in which sex is mentioned, but only hinted at, and is never discussed crudely. The prose is simple and effective. It is a story which could have been maudlin, but the skill of the author and her use of humor keeps the pages turning and the reader engaged. The narrator was a surprise, at the end, and this discovery was not as smooth as it could have been, but this was a good, entertaining read which I would recommend for the sheer pleasure one gets from reading a well written book.