“On Turpentine Lane” by Elinor Lipman— A Comedy of Manners

Lipman, Elinor. “On Turpentine Lane”, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.

A Comedy of Manners

Amos Lassen

At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her suburban hometown and where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. Her life is peaceful and now that she has bought a cute

bungalow on Turpentine Lane, her life seems to be finally on track. Her fiancé is off on a crowd funded cross-country walk and seems to be too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state). That does not yet bother Faith as neither does her “witless boss” or her mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he paints like Chagall. 

Then she finds some strange relics in her attic and begins to wonder if her life is as it seems. She is just lucky to have Nick Franconi, a colleague at work as a friend and officemate.

“On Turpentine Lane” is a novel about the many forms of love— married love, the love between siblings, the love between friends. Faith Rachel Frankel works at a private day school in the Development Department. Her “fiancé” Stuart has given her with a red string which he says is he claims is an engagement ring. He then takes off for Boston (with her credit card) so that he can begin a cross-country odyssey that is to be his way of self-discovery. That journey only lasted as far as Missouri and comes home to discover that Faith has dumped him and moved into the bungalow she bought

Turpentine Lane and has moved in. I am not familiar with Elinor Lipman’s writing but I understand that it is driven by its characters and she does develop some wonderful characters. Here there is also a touch of mystery.