On Turpentine Lane

by Elinor Lipman

An endearing romantic comedy from the beloved, best-selling author of The Family Man and The View from Penthouse B 

 

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544808249
  • ISBN-10: 054480824X
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication Date: 02/14/2017
  • Carton Quantity: 12

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About the Book
About the Author
Excerpts
Reviews
  • About the Book
    An endearing romantic comedy from the beloved best-selling author of The Family Man and The View from Penthouse B 

     

    At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. It's a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state). And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he's Chagall. 

     
    When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence . . . 
     
    Elinor Lipman may well have invented the screwball romantic comedy for our era, and here she is at her sharpest and best. On Turpentine Lane is funny, poignant, and a little bit outrageous. 
     
     
  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    What Possessed Me? 

      

    If I hadn’t been naïve and recklessly trusting, would I ever have purchased number 10 Turpentine Lane, a chronic headache masquerading as a charming bungalow? “Best value in town,” said the ad, which was true, if judging by the price tag alone. I paid almost nothing by today’s standards, attributing the bargain to my mother’s hunch that the previous owner had succumbed while in residence. Not so off-putting, I rationalized; don’t most people die at home? On moving day my next-door neighbor brought me a welcome loaf of banana bread along with the truth about my seller. A suicide attempt.?.?. sleeping pills .?.?. she’d saved them up till she had enough, poor thing.And who could blame her? “Strong as an ox,” she added. “But a whole bottle?” She tapped the side of her head. 

          “Brain damage?” I asked. “Brain dead?” 

          “Her daughter had to make that awful decision long distance.” 

          I’d negotiated and settled with that very daughter. Sadder and spookier than I bargained for? A little. But now I know it was an act more logical than tragic ?— ?what a sensible ninety-year-old felon might consider the simplest way out. 

      

    I first viewed the property through rose-colored glasses on a sunny October day. There was a brick path leading to the front door, a trellis supporting what might have been August’s wisteria, and a gnarled tree that hinted at future fruit. Inside I saw gumwood that hadn’t been ruined by paint and a soapstone sink that a decorator might install in a Soho loft. The linoleum beneath my feet made me want to look up the year linoleum was invented. 

          The real estate agent, who said she’d gone to high school with my brother, had been Tammy Flannagan then, was now divorced. How was Joel? Divorced, too, she’d heard. 

          “He’s fine,” I said, somewhat distracted by the carved pineapple on top of the newel post, yet another harbinger of domestic tranquility. 

          There was hardly anything to see on the second floor, just a bathroom from another century, and two square, darkly wallpapered bedrooms facing each other, one with a view of the street, the other overlooking the miniature backyard. The bathroom had a claw-foot tub, its porcelain yellowed and its plug desiccated. The small sink had separate hot and cold faucets, which, Tammy insisted, were back in style. 

          I asked which one had been the master bedroom. 

          “Does it matter? They’re equal in square footage,” said Tammy. 

          “It might matter to someone who’d rather sleep in a room where nobody died.” 

          She pointed silently to the back room, then directed my gaze to a hatch in the hall ceiling. “When you open that, there’s a ladder you can pull down.” 

          “Then what?” 

          “The attic.” 

          “Have you seen it?” 

          “Me personally? No. Someone from my office did, of course. I’ve been told it’s empty and dry. Want to see the cellar?” 

          I knew cellars were important ?— ?their foundations, water heaters, boilers, pipes, mousetraps ?— ?so I said, “Sure.” 

          “May need updating,” said Tammy, “but everything’s in good working order. This is a little doll house. I’d buy it myself if I wasn’t already in contract for a condo.” 

          I thought I should add, hoping to sound nonchalant about the property, “I’m engaged to be married. This would be fine for a single person, but I really need a bigger place.” 

          She helped herself to my ringless left hand, then dropped it without comment. I said, “We’re not a very traditional couple.” 

          “Congratulations anyway,” said Tammy. “Do you want to make an appointment to come back with him? Or her.” 

          “A man, Stuart. He’s away.” 

          “On business?” 

          His absence was hard to explain and harder to make sense of, so I just said yes. 

          Whether it was the impulse to change the subject or sound less like the real estate novice that I was, I said, “I couldn’t even think of moving forward without an inspection.” 

          But I’d already made up my mind. “A little doll house” sounded exactly right to me. Two bedrooms would be plenty, and I preferred baths to showers. There was a gas stove, green milk-glass mugs hanging from cup hooks, a one-car garage, leaded glass in the china closet, and a price that seemed too good to be true. So on that day, like someone who bought and sold properties with abandon, whose profession was flipping houses, I offered two-thirds of the asking price. 

          Tammy said, “Well, honestly, I don’t even think I can take that offer to the seller.” 

          I reminded her that this was a one-bath cottage, surely uninsulated, with an antique boiler and a postage stamp of a backyard. I’d have to start from scratch. “The wallpaper must be from the 1950s,” I scolded, at the same time thinking, I love that viny wallpaper. 

          Tammy looked up at the ceiling fixture, a white globe that was not unhandsome, and said, “I suppose I have to present your offer. Expect a counteroffer if she’s not too insulted to make one.” 

          “Every inch of this place needs updating. It’s my final offer. And it’s not like I’m in love with the place,” I lied. 

          It took one phone call, a counteroffer that I spurned, a fax, a signature, a return fax, and a relatively small check. On the other side was a lawyer representing the uninterested daughter five time zones away. 

          My counsel added to the purchase and sale agreement a sentence that struck me as curious: that if the lending bank refused to close for any reason ?— ?unrelated to my finances ?— ?I could back out. 

          “Is this standard?” I asked. 

          “Boilerplate,” she answered. 

          Simple. I signed it. 

      

    A Different Man 

      

    The aforementioned fiancé was out of town for an indefinite period because he was walking across the continental United State. His purported goal was not necessarily the Pacific Ocean, but finding his own path in life. It wasn’t just his mission statement but how he talked, on the road or off, raising consciousness, search...

  • Reviews
    “Light and tight, ‘On Turpentine Lane’ is constructed with an almost scary mastery. Not a single thread dangles, not a single character is left without a place in Faith’s world.  The story folds out and back in as neatly as an origami flower, and Faith recounts it all with a raised eyebrow and plenty of cheek.  . . . Lipman seems to have the most fun writing ridiculous characters, which may be why the novel’s worst people are so enjoyable . . .  A neat bourbon swapped for the usual rom-com grenadine.” 

    The New York Times Book Review 

     

    “When a restless woman impulsively buys a dilapidated cottage, she winds up with problems she didn’t anticipate: love trouble, family disarray, even a murder investigation. The cleverly tangled plot—along with some snappy dialogue and a wry, likeable heroine—makes Lipman’s latest a diverting delight.” 

    ?—People 

     

    “When there's already too much darkness in the world and a cheering respite is in order, we can all be glad for Elinor Lipman's On Turpentine Lane, a romantic comedy with just enough sly wit to keep it from turning sugary...We can trust that like her foremothers Jane Austen and Laurie Colwin, Lipman will find a way to make the world right for her heroine. Would that she could do so for the rest of us!” 

    —O, The Oprah Magazine 

     

    “The novel’s fast, funny dialogue keeps things light. Yes, that’s the Lipman way: alerting us to cultural wrongs even while entertaining us with her cultural zingers . . . Lipman has taken lessons from our great chroniclers of the quotidian, from Geoffrey Chaucer to Jane Austen. The result, in 'On Turpentine Lane,' provides a light but serious antidote to what ails us all these days.” 

    —The Washington Post 

     

    “Genuine, deft and witty, Lipman’s On Turpentine Lane, doesn’t skewer American contemporary life as much as roast it . . . Lipman’s neat plot twists and smart repartee propel the novel, but it is its sharp social observations and far-ranging curiosity that elevate it beyond the traditional romantic comedy, into a work of real heft and charm.” 

    —The National Book Review 

     

    "[Lipman] has a way of crafting books so utterly charming that you want to set up residence inside them. And yet, in a seemingly effortless balance, she’s never saccharine, but writes in a wry, warm, we’re-all-friends-here-so-let’s-have-a-drink tone . . . Like all of Lipman’s books, ‘On Turpentine Lane quickly becomes a friend." 

    —The Seattle Times 

     

    “A breezy beaut that is swift and smart . . . It will appeal to someone looking for a cheerful escape and at the same time feed a sophisticated reader without feeling like empty calories.” 

    —The Lowell Sun 

     

    “Delightful! I read it in one day—truly a peak reading experience. Every page was packed with wonders.” 

    —Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? 

     

    “With a witty cast of characters and her usual delightful dialogue and insightful observations of human behavior, Lipman (The Inn at Lake Devine) captures the complications of modern love.” 

    Publishers Weekly 

     

    “Lipman . . . is known for her dialogue, so snappy, funny, and real . . . [On Turpentine Lane] is warm, clever, and a lot of fun.” 

    Kirkus Reviews 

     

    “As loyal Lipman readers have come to expect, there are messages of hope, resilience, and discovery tucked behind the frothy rom-com scenes Lipman draws oh so well.” 

    Booklist 

     

    “Readers will be more than satisfied with Lipman's drive down this lane.” 

    Library Journal 

     

    "A new Elinor Lipman novel is always a cause for celebration. And her newest will not disappoint . . . On Turpentine Lane is another pitch-perfect, delightful romantic comedy from the beloved author of The Inn at Lake Devine." 

    Pop Sugar 

     

    "Tartly observational wit and a deep understanding of all-too-human foibles." 

    Buffalo News 

     

    “Any day can be vastly improved with a little Elinor Lipman. This book is a gem!” 

    —Laura Cummings, White Birch Books 

     

    “Faith Frankel enjoys her low-stress private-school job, waits patiently for her ambivalent fiancé, and is delighted with her affordable fixer-upper.  But 10 Turpentine Lane seems to hold a macabre secret, and Faith’s investigations lead to surprises.  Typical of Elinor Lipman’s endearing heroines, Faith’s madcap adventures and slow-blooming romance lead to happily-ever-afters.” 

    —Cheryl McKeon, Book Passage  

     

    “A love story with Elinor Lipman’s signature wit, charm and zaniness, On Turpentine Lane is a pure delight!  Faith’s ho-hum life is upended after she buys a bungalow. What follows is a tale only Lipman could invent: a philandering father in the midst of mid-life crisis painting commissioned Chagall knock-offs for the uber-wealthy, an apparently sweet little home that appears to be host to past murders and disappearing babies, and a whole cast of characters beginning and ending unlikely relationships.  Woven through it all is a family who lovingly supports one another, and the unfolding of a delightful romance.” 

    —Isabel Berg, BookEnds 

     

    On Turpentine Lane is a delight: all bubbly effervescence! Elinor Lipman’s latest reminds me of all the reasons I loved her in the past: the young love, the snappy dialogue, the twisty plot. I hope she writes ten more like this one.” 

    —Francesca De Stefano, Books Inc. 

     

    “When I first moved to Milwaukee, I learned after signing my lease that the previous tenant had died in the bathtub. So I was particularly amused by the setup of Elinor Lipman’s newest novel, wherein one Faith Frankel purchases a fixer upper and learns that something fishy was going on in the house previous to her tenancy. Faith’s engaged, but her fiancé Stuart is on a spiritual journey while she stays behind in small-town Massachusetts, writing thank-you notes for a small private school’s development fund. Filled with the familial complications we come to expect, I’m not giving anything away by calling On Turpentine Lane a romantic comedy of the highest order, with the delight not just in the classic joy of seeing the two people meant for each other get it right, but in the myriad ways that other couples can get it completely, hilariously wrong.” 

    —Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company 

     

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