STARRED REVIEW
April 10, 2018

A father calls his children home

By Elisabeth Hyde
Review by

Elisabeth Hyde’s latest novel, like her two most recent—The Abortionist’s Daughter (2006) and In the Heart of the Canyon (2009)—displays her marvelous gift for creating vibrant and believable characters while keeping a keen, often humorous eye on their less desirable traits. In Go Ask Fannie, her sixth work of fiction, Hyde focuses her perceptive lens on Murray, 81, the beloved patriarch of the Blair family. A widower for 32 years, he invites his three grown children to his rural New Hampshire home for what he hopes will be a weekend of sibling bonding.

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Elisabeth Hyde’s latest novel, like her two most recent—The Abortionist’s Daughter (2006) and In the Heart of the Canyon (2009)—displays her marvelous gift for creating vibrant and believable characters while keeping a keen, often humorous eye on their less desirable traits. In Go Ask Fannie, her sixth work of fiction, Hyde focuses her perceptive lens on Murray, 81, the beloved patriarch of the Blair family. A widower for 32 years, he invites his three grown children to his rural New Hampshire home for what he hopes will be a weekend of sibling bonding.

Ruth, the oldest, is a typically dominant firstborn. A lawyer in D.C., she is the most removed and therefore hasn’t noticed Murray’s age-related foibles, but she also has the most to say about what should come next for their father: an assisted living facility. George, 44, is an ICU nurse and marathon runner who lives an hour away from their father, in Concord. Lizzie, 38, is a tenured college professor living only a 20-minute drive away from Murray and therefore is his most frequent caregiver. Lizzie also causes Murray the most worry, and is the reason he has called the siblings together. A few days earlier, Lizzie’s most recent lover dropped her late mother’s Fannie Farmer Cookbook into a sink full of water; in a rage, Lizzie poured boiling water on the man’s laptop, burning his hand in the process, and she may be sued at any time.

Hovering over this hastily arranged long weekend are two deaths from a car accident 32 years ago: that of Lillian, the children’s mother, and of their sibling Daniel, who was 15. Lillian was a stay-at-home mom who longed to be a published writer. She spent all her free hours in a tiny space on the house’s third floor, typing her short stories on an ancient Smith Corona. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, in which she scribbled first lines of stories that came to her while she was cooking for her endlessly hungry brood, is beloved by her remaining children, as they think it’s all that’s left of her writing endeavors.

Hyde moves back and forth in time between this family conference in 2016 and the early years of Murray and Lillian’s marriage, ending with the tragic accident in 1984. Each character is crafted with such an incisive eye for detail that the reader feels as if she has been dropped into the middle of this family confab—Hyde makes it easy to relate to what each family member is going through.

Hyde’s insightful and engaging novel is highly recommended, especially for readers who enjoy family sagas by Sue Miller and Anne Tyler.

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Go Ask Fannie

Go Ask Fannie

By Elisabeth Hyde
Putnam
ISBN 9780735218567

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