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It Will Come to Me

By March 2009Comments

We probably didn’t need another comic novel about life at an absurdly bureaucratic and insular American university, but Houston memoirist Emily Fox Gordon gets a pass for her well-honed and earthy satire It Will Come to Me. Ruth Blau is a 56-year-old faculty wife; her husband, Ben, chairs the philosophy department at Lola Dees Institute, a thinly disguised stand-in for Rice University, where Gordon teaches. Before the birth of her only son, Isaac, Ruth is a novelist of some promise, but as the teenage Isaac skids down an unthinkable slope from underachieving student to homeless adult, she schlumps into a middle-aged torpor punctuated only by boozy tantrums and epic arguments with Ben. The book derives great humanity and warmth from its depiction of the couple’s frailty: Ruth carries her unpublished manuscript to hot young author Ricia Spottiswoode’s book signing, knowing full well that she is broadcasting her desperation; Ben can’t bring himself to lower the boom on his maladjusted incompetent of a secretary. Gordon occasionally loses focus—particularly in one stagy ladies-room encounter between Ruth and Spottiswoode—but it’s a small price to pay for the pleasures of this disarming and perceptive first novel. Spiegel & Grau, $24.95

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