This author – not this book specifically – was recommended to me by Mama Dish. So I randomly chose one of Elinor Lipman’s eight novels, and ended up with “The Ladies’ Man.”
From reading other reviews online, some say this was their least favorite Lipman book. While I haven’t read any of her other novels, I think to enjoy this book you have to have the right Lipman expectations, which Mama Dish set up for me quite nicely: Ridiculous plot, likable characters, don’t take it too seriously.
Given those parameters, I really enjoyed this book and finished it quickly. Mama Dish was right. The premise is pretty unrealistic: three sisters, all unmarried, living together in their 50′s. A younger brother – also unmarried – who comes around to needle them and eat their food. (OK that part isn’t so unrealistic!) All of them are thrown for a loop when the man who jilted the oldest sister, Adele, returns to Boston from California. After disappearing on the night of their engagement party decades ago, Harvey Nash (who, once he started his career composing commercial jingles in Hollywood, switched it to Nash Harvey) has left his long-term live-in California girlfriend and has come back to see Adele.
Once Nash returns, a series of incredulous events happen, forcing everyone out of their comfort zones. Throughout the book, the reader questions why Nash really came back… Did he truly want to apologize? Did he want to marry Adele? Was he just bored? While you’re trying to figure that out, hating his flirtatious ways and laughing at his blunders, all of the women in the novel end up making some pretty drastic life changes… changes that never would have been made without Adele’s ex-fiance’s impromptu visit.
I enjoyed how all the characters’ lives were intertwined – it kept things interesting. And while I got annoyed with some of the characters’ decisions at times, (especially the women who are so quick to fall for this guy!) I was still rooting for them to make the right choice and listen to the little courageous voices inside each of them.
I think everyone knows someone who can be described as a “ladies’ man.” Harvey Nash was the quintessential middle aged bachelor – good looking, non-committal, sex-driven, and constantly trying to seduce a woman with a single look… whether he was currently attached or not.
I may be strangled for writing this, but I can’t help thinking back to my high school and college days… if I were sitting around gabbing with my girlfriends and the phrase “ladies’ man” was dropped into the conversation, no doubt, the one guy we all knew who seemed to fit that description would be none other than my dear, sweet, wonderful fiance.
Back in high school (LONG before we ever dated) Mr. Dish was one of those charismatic guys who never had trouble finding a date and never seemed to have to work that hard to impress a girl. Some guys in high school were scared to talk to a giggling gaggle of females. Mr. Dish was NOT one of them.
So am I marrying a ladies’ man? I’m marrying a guy I used to think was a ladies’ man. The difference? Nash never grew up and never settled down. Turns out, when you meet the right one, neither of those things seem so bad anymore.