We've seen "Sex and the City." Now it's time for sex in the suburbs. The Position isn't exactly the frothy take on love offered by the famous HBO series. Instead, Meg Wolitzer's smart new novel delves into much heavier stuff, examining how sex is inevitably intertwined with all the moments of life that happen outside the bedroom.
Roz and Paul Mellow wrote the ultimate 1970s how-to sex manual, complete with a new sexual position and graphic illustrations. It's a national phenomenon, but the book causes no end of embarrassment for their four children. Fast-forward three decades, and the all-grown-up Mellow kids still face the legacy of their parents' foray into erotica. They're constantly asked if they're related to those Mellows.
Despite their obvious and very publicly documented affection for one another, Roz and Paul split soon after the book became a sensational bestseller. But now Roz is determined to reissue the book, and she wants her children to convince Paul it's a good idea.
Paul is living listlessly with his third wife in Florida when he starts getting the pitch from oldest son Adam. It's the last thing Adam wants to do; he has his own problems (sexual and otherwise) back in New York City. And besides, cajoling his bitter dad into doing anything that will benefit his mom seems far too difficult an undertaking. But the task is Adam's alone: his sisters Holly and Claudia are simply drifting along in life, and his brother Dashiell is incapacitated by a serious illness.
Wolitzer writes with the same palpable intensity she brought to her critically acclaimed novel The Wife, proving once again that she is among the most satisfying of contemporary authors. The Position is at its wry best when it explores the strange ways that families crack and reform over the years. The Mellow children struggle to put their parents' past behind them so that they can have their own future. They all feel the impact of that infamous book, but the body, they learn, is only temporary. It's the other stuff in life that leaves a lasting impression.
Amy Scribner writes from Olympia, Washington.