Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Schmidt Steps Back-Louis Begley

Schmidt Steps Back

Louis Begley

Knopf, Mar 13 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307700650

On New Year’s Eve 2008, septuagenarian retired lawyer Albert Schmidt feels like a randy teenager as his late partner’s wife Alice Verplanck is arriving from Paris to see him in the Hamptons. He thinks back to 1995 when her spouse mysteriously died and they began an affair that he destroyed with his accusations of betrayal. Although Alice has doubts about Schmidt, she agreed to see him if he steps back to evaluate his life.

Meanwhile Schmidt's dysfunctional relationship with his daughter Charlotte had turned worse when she married a pathetic man whose mother is a modern day Machiavelli shrink. The psychiatrist mother-in-law subtly worked a campaign that insured Schmidt became unacceptable to his daughter. Pregnant and with one child already, Charlotte offers her dad a reconciliation, which he accepts though that means dealing with a weak son-in-law and the man’s mother from hell masquerading as a psychiatrist trying to widen the Schmidt chasm.

The third Schmidt character study (see About Schmidt and Schmidt Delivered) is a fascinating very dry humorous comedy of manners. The title character is terrific as he regrets some of his choices and fears he will rue his choice to reconcile with his daughter and meet his grandchild. Droll and witty, fans of the Schmidt saga will enjoy what symbolizes a senior citizen as the hero recognizes only he and two friends are still upright; while wondering who will be the last one standing at their funerals.

Harriet Klausner

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