The follow-up to her highly praised debut story collection, The First Hurt,
Rachel Sherman’s Living Room
is a beautiful and disarmingly direct portrait of a family in trouble. With the tone of a modern-day Jewish The Ice Storm
set in Long Island
, imbued with Alice Munro’s fascination with personal history, Living Room
is a deep exploration of the ripple effects of mental illness on a family, as well as a look at generational differences in mating and marriage, and a wry, wise look at suburban angst.
The novel careens between three generations of women. There is the grandmother, Headie, whose oncoming senility brings vivid dreams and hallucinations of her younger life and whose main link to reality is a new computer with which she writes strange but revealing missives to her family. Livia, a housewife with unfulfilled career aspirations and a strange eating disorder is consumed by a daily struggle to keep herself together while helplessly watching her family begin to fall apart. And Abby, Livia’s teenage daughter, the wisest of the three, who is striving to keep her mother’s dysfunction at an arm’s length while navigating the unfamiliar terrors of high school.
With The First Hurt, Sherman
became known for her laser-sharp view of adolescence; here she takes it two generations further, bringing together a fascinating array of universal family experiences with unusual frankness and wisdom.