The View from Penthouse B

Elinor Lipman (The Inn at Lake Devine) can always be counted on to make you empathize with her characters, whether you're chuckling or looking askance at them.

Two 50-something sisters have almost simultaneous downturns in their well-planned lives. Margo's husband, a fertility doctor, is indicted and found guilty of being a bit too enthusiastic about making his patients pregnant. (One might say that his participation is complete.) Margo divorces Charles instantly, gets half his money and buys a gorgeous penthouse in the West Village. She then invests the rest with Bernie Madoff--and we all know what happens then.

Her sister, Gwen-Laura, wakes up one morning--but her husband doesn't. Gwen is bereft beyond imagining; she is still crying two years after the fact and shows no sign of letting up or moving on. Their younger sister, Betsy, takes them to lunch and suggests that they move in together. They mull it over for about 10 seconds and call for the moving van.

Margo finds Anthony, a young, handsome, gay cupcake maker, and the household is complete. As these three strategize about ways to earn money, Charles is paroled and moves into a tacky little studio on the first floor--with no stove. This necessitates frequent meals with the Penthouse trio. You might imagine what happens next, but Lipman has a few surprises in store. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

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