A poignant breakout novel, for fans of J. Courtney Sullivan and Elin Hilderbrand, about a single mother who inherits a beautiful beach house with a caveat—she must take care of the ornery elderly woman who lives in it.
For years, Maggie Sheets has been an invisible hand in the glittering homes of wealthy New York City clients, scrubbing, dusting, mopping, and doing all she can to keep her head above water as a single mother. Everything changes when a former employer dies leaving Maggie a staggering inheritance. A house in Sag Harbor. The catch? It comes with an inhabitant: The deceased’s eighty-two-year old mother Edith.
Edith has Alzheimer’s—or so the doctors tell her—but she remembers exactly how her daughter Liza could light up a room, or bring dark clouds in her wake. And now Liza’s gone, by her own hand, and Edith has been left—like a chaise or strand of pearls—to a poorly dressed young woman with a toddler in tow.
Maggie and Edith are both certain this arrangement will be an utter disaster. But as summer days wane, a tenuous bond forms, and Edith, who feels the urgency of her diagnosis, shares a secret that she’s held close for five decades, launching Maggie on a mission that might just lead them each to what they are looking for.
It was hard, this aging thing, especially since her body had once been as limber as a rubber band. She had been a dancer, when she was young; her body her instrument. Now it felt like an old car, with a faulty transmission.
Maggie's mother had been depressed; Maggie knew the drill. She, too, would disappear into the depths of her bed for a week or two, leaving her and her father to fend for themselves. 'Don't worry about your mother, she's on her period,' her father used to offer as explanation. For the longest time, until Maggie had started menstruating herself, she thought a period was a concrete object. Something her mother literally sat on.
If this is winning the lottery, I'm selling my ticket back. You, Edith, are no prize.
There's youth and then there are idiots like these... Look at those women, all their bits hanging out. There's no mystery anymore.
Inheriting Edith was a beautifully written and well-balanced book that covered several heavy and relevant topics with a deft and sensitive hand. Despite the burden of the potentially maudlin subject matter, the narrative provided lively hits of humor and delightful insights and uncanny observations. The writing was stellar, alternating between amusing and heart-squeezing emotive. The characters were vividly drawn, endearingly flawed, and smartly written. They were also realistically selfish, rueful, and one hundred percent knowable. I was quickly drawn into their story as if I were a fellow conspirator to their creative process. The effect they ultimately had on each other stung my eyes and constricted my throat. Ms. Fishman's narrative superbly brought to life the distressing process of the awareness of losing one's memory to Alzheimer's with all the self-doubt, anxiety, uncertainty, vulnerability, and regrets that would accompany that dreaded diagnosis, as well as the warring fears and the desire to grab on to the last chance of rectifying past mistakes and alleviate some of those life-long regrets while there was still time. And all of that was smoothly woven into an entertaining and engaging story with unexpected twists and revelations. Zoe Fishman is highly skilled, sly, and crafty. She is also my new favorite.
Zoe Fishman is the author of Driving Lessons, Saving Ruth, and Balancing Acts. Her books have been translated into German, Italian, Dutch and Polish. She’s the recipient of many awards, including Target’s Breakout and Emerging Author Picks, a New York Post Pick, and has been featured on NBC’s “Atlanta & Co.” as well as in Publishers Weekly and The Huffington Post. She is currently at work on her next novel, as well as teaching writing at The Callanwolde Fine Arts Center. Zoe lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons.