Serendipity by Louise Shaffer
That she is the daughter of a Broadway playwrite and the granddaughter of famous Broadway actress is pretty much all Carrie knows about her father and grandmother, both of whom have been out of her life since her father’s death as a young girl. Now that her mother Rose is dead, Carrie begins to wonder about her past. What was it about her father and grandmother that kept her mother from talking about them? When her father left such a large trust, what caused her mother to move them into a tiny apartment and live austerely, giving excess money to charity? With these questions in mind – and with the news that her estranged grandmother Lu may have attended Rose’s funeral – Carrie begins to investigate her past, to find out what events shaped her mother and eventually herself.
I really enjoyed “Serendipity.” Shaffer pulled together four generations of women in a family in a way that seemed completely cohesive. I appreciated that she took us all the way back to Mifalda, Carrie’s great-grandmother. As a recent immigrant whose mother, if alive, was still in Italy and whose mother-in-law was deceased by the beginning of the story, Mifalda was really a fantastic starting place for the forces that shaped these women and their life choices.
I felt that I got to know most of the characters. Carrie and Mifalda were probably the most fully drawn out but I got a pretty good feeling for Lu as well. Rose was much more loosely drawn, but I think that was intentional. All the other characters were either in the story or described by someone close to them; Rose, as it turns out, was rather deliberate about not letting others get close to her after the death of her husband.
Although this deals with some family drama, this is a pretty light (but not super fluffy) book. While it might be difficult to read if one is facing the death of one’s own mother or significant family drama, I think most people would enjoy this book as a lovely, enjoyable read.