Sylvia is a forty two year old woman who is trying to make sense of her present using the only tool she has--her past. She must apologize to her best friend Ruby for what she has done, or failed to do, in their friendship. And so she begins the apology at the beginning of her love story with Henry, whom she met at a cafe in Europe, where she had fled following her (entirely reasonable) divorce. She and Henry begin an old fashioned, romantic tour of the Continent, putting to use Henry’s talent for finding a gem of a bistro or cafe for every meal as well as Henry’s generous budget from his estranged wife. Their deliciously hedonistic love affair is juxtaposed with Sylvia’s vivid memories of her soulmate parents, her calculating brother and his wife, and all the ancestors who have come before them.
As ever in Kirshenbaum’s work, themes of love, self, ritual, faith, friendship, and family weave throughout the novel. Her consideration and care for the fate of her characters is deep, but her narrative is never without humor. Whether remembering a dateless prom night, or the lost friend who “went Navaho”, Kirshenbaum’s writing never fails to be poignant, fresh, and hilarious.