The pleasure in reading a book like Cleaning Nabokov’s House is to enjoy vicariously the survival and ultimate triumph of an average (well, maybe not so average) person.

Barb Barrett is a wife and mother in a small town who loses what she loves most (her father, cousin and children) in relatively quick succession. When she is at her lowest point, she is unemployed and more or less homeless – living out of her car and reduced to watching her children from afar. She lost custody because the judge, lawyers, and social workers in the small, upstate New York town is allied with her husband, a hometown boy. A meal may consist of boiled lettuce; she has one pair of good pants.

Her luck begins to change when she buys a house formerly occupied by Vladimir Nabokov. She finds a manuscript presumably written by the author of Lolita. The reader picks up bits about Nabokov’s life and works and, I, at least, wanted to read more of his actual novels.

Leslie Daniels, in her first novel, creates a character who is endearingly quirky and self-reliant. We root for her success and hope for her former husband’s (the ex-person’s) downfall.

Tara Parker-Pope decided to gather all the science and research about marriage and relationships into one book. Her impetus was the failure of her own marriage; she wanted to know if she could have done anything  to prevent her divorce.

This self-help book is unusual in that the author isn’t spinning conjecture; her “advice” is all based on research. Some of the most interesting studies were about arguments; turns out the subject matter and frequency is less important than the level of scorn.  She also warns that the first three minutes of an argument are critical. The outcome can be less damaging, the more open and less explosive you are.

For Better is full of practical advice about how differences in financial style, child rearing and household chores affect a relationship.

Often, commonly held wisdom was not found to be the case in real life. Very useful for long-married and newly married couples.

After 48 years of marriage, Joseph has asked Betty for a divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences”. This confuses Betty because of course they have “irreconcilable differences” – what did that have to do with divorce? And thus begins a tale of manners and family ties, heartbreak and second chances.

To save money Betty and her two adult daughters – each facing life changing situations of their own – move into a dilapidated cottage on Long Island, loaned to them by an benevolent cousin. It is here that each woman faces her new future, making connections to their neighbors, town and each other that are both unexpected and comforting.

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine is a decidedly modern look at society, inspired by the novels of Jane Austen (you’ll recognize a lot of Sense and Sensibility and a bit of Pride and Prejudice here) Witty, thoughtful, sharply observant, this is a novel of picking up the pieces and starting anew.

  • Check out Mary Alice Monroe’s new book, Time is a River.time-is-a-river4
  • Take one recent breast cancer survivor (Mia Landan)
  • Add one cheating husband who files for divorce
  • Locate in a remote, dilapidated fishing cabin in the mountains of North Carolina
  • Sift in mysterious, scandalous details about the former owner (legendary fly-fisher Kate Watkins)
  • Temper Mia’s quest for the truth about Kate with her friend’s command to not dig up the ruinous past
  • Add prescribed tall and handsome love interest
  • Simmer for 369 pages
  • Top with predictable (convenient but still ultimately satisfying) plot line
  • Note: This is a quick and easy recipe. Not for the gourmand, but perfect for reading at the beach (or in a little fishing cabin in the woods!) End result: another popular novel by a New York Time’s bestselling author. Serves multitudes. Bon appétit!