Why She Went Home

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When Phoebe Fine finds herself turning thirty in Manhattan without having achieved fame, a steady job, or marriage, she uses the excuse that her mother is ill to move back into her childhood home. Coming from a musical family—her father plays oboe in the Newark Symphony Orchestra and her mother plays a viola—Phoebe’s instrument of choice is the electric violin. She envisions making a solo album called “Bored and Lonely” but is too shiftless to begin. She goes trash-picking and sells the finds on eBay, and she talks her unemployed sister, who has also moved back home, into helping. The uselessness of the adult children, who still squabble like adolescents in the face of the mother’s cancer and the father’s increasing ineptitude, makes one pity the parents.

The NSO conductor, Roget Mankuvsky, is awkwardly introduced to Phoebe as date-potential, and the reader has to suffer through the dating ritual with them. In the course of trying to have sex, Roget falls upon Mrs. Fine’s viola and smashes the front of it. Roget thinks the viola might be valuable, so Phoebe and Roget cook up a means to get it fixed and appraised without Mrs. Fine knowing. In the end, the viola turns out to be a Guarneri del Gesù and Roget turns out to be just plain Roger who had gone to elementary school with Phoebe.

The premise might have had potential to be humorous, but the telling of the story falls far short of it. It may have limited appeal for Generation-X readers.