The Scenic Route
Harper, May 12 2009, $13.99
Forty-two year old divorced Manhattanite Sylvia Landsman loses her job so she decides to go on a vacation before she walks the pavement looking for work. Sylvia knows she is being foolish as she needs to find a job, but goes off to Italy anyway. In Florence, she meets married American expatriate Henry Stafford in a café; he explains that his wealthy wife is in some remote spot in India visiting her guru.
Henry and Sylvia travel Europe together in his Peugeot that his wife bought him. A classic New York cynical Jew, Sylvia and Henry pass the drives with her telling him amusing tales about her family as well as her shortfalls including the betrayal of her best friend Ruby that ended their friendship. Sylvia secretly hopes Henry will prove her relationship guru, as she lacks the courage to pursue more than they have right now.
THE SCENIC ROUTE is an engaging character study that initially appears to be a series of vignettes, but soon ties into a profound quirky glimpse at two people falling in love, but will either have the courage to take the risky next step. Sylvia is a fascinating protagonist as she explains her failures and that of her family while internally praying Henry will proclaim she is the one; Henry proves a good listener who materialistically has everything but emotionally has little as he prays Sylvia will proclaim he is her one. Fans will appreciate this spin on romance as Binnie Kirshenbaum makes a strong case that it takes a brave soul to open one’s heart and as one gets older the courage wanes.