Benjamin Markovits’s follow-up to his meditative and immersive novel of family life, A Weekend in New York, takes up the lives of the Essingers not long after the action of the previous book ended. Younger brother Paul has retired from professional tennis and is separated from his partner, Dana, though they’re still having desultory post-relationship sex, as well as co-parenting their young son, Cal, despite living in different cities. Older brother Nathan is running for the job of federal judge. Their mother, Liesel, is working on a book about her upbringing in Germany while suffering from macular degeneration. All the siblings except Jean are struggling with the vicissitudes of becoming parents themselves, forcing her to reflect that without kids ‘you got excluded from the new family drama, the second act’. She can only hope to have ‘second hand expertise’.
Set over Christmas week in Obama-era America, the book’s opening exclamation from Liesel as she welcomes the extended family (‘There are too many of us’) prepares us for the novel’s constantly shifting points