College student Joseph last name changed to protect the innocent plans on spending a hot and hazy summer with his girlfriend Cynthia Glass. He quickly settles in to Cynthia's family home - though not her bedroom, to appease her grandmother - where a very warm and friendly welcome awaited him. Signed on to work at a kids' camp during the day, ...Read MoreCollege student Joseph last name changed to protect the innocent plans on spending a hot and hazy summer with his girlfriend Cynthia Glass. He quickly settles in to Cynthia's family home - though not her bedroom, to appease her grandmother - where a very warm and friendly welcome awaited him. Signed on to work at a kids' camp during the day, Joseph fully intends to spend his evenings sneaking across the hall for a vigorous round of mattress aerobics - at least, that's when he's not worrying about his incomplete end of term paper (he and Cyn have been participating in too much physical, and not enough mental exercise recently). Meanwhile, Cynthia's mother ('just call me Mimi') is busy making props for a festival of operas...which is how she comes to be constructing a golem in the basement. (Think big Jewish robot made of clay, brought to life through magic to carry out his creator's bidding - very handy in emergencies.) And this summer, it just so happens that there is an emergency - as Joseph gradually uncovers the truth about the Glass household, where nothing's as transparent as it first seemed. There are saucy secrets afoot and the incredibly close-knit family is about to be shattered...Read Less
Publishers Weekly, 2000-06-19 So twisted that even its protagonist can't keep up with the perverse turns of plot, this melodramatic satire of family life trembles between virtuosity and utter collapse. Handler (The Basic Eight) sets up the first half of his comically warped novel as a mock opera, complete with stage and orchestra directions. Joseph, self-cast as the young hero, is a college student just finishing his junior year. Urged by his insatiable girlfriend, Cynthia Glass, to spend the summer sleeping by her side, Joseph moves in with her family in Pittsburgh, where the two plan to work as counselors at a Jewish day camp. Dinner at the Glass house the first night clues Joseph in to the family's bizarre fascinations?incest, science, Kabbalah?but he still has no idea what he's getting into. After closer acquaintance with the creepily rational Dr. Glass (baritone), his high-strung, opera-loving wife, Mimi (soprano) and their precocious young son Stephen (tenor), he continues to be bemused, though unspeakable acts are clearly taking place offstage. Handler's baroque prose curls in elegant arabesques, but his elaborate plotting too often overwhelms his characters. Weakest of all is his portrait of the doomed Cynthia (with the obvious pun of her diminutive "Cyn"), who never quite emerges from Joseph's horny descriptions of their romance. After the opera-melodrama's weird but tantalizing climax, involving death and the golem myth, the novel actually recovers its narrative balance as the psychologically scarred Joseph turns to New Age recovery paperbacks, which replace opera as Handler's satiric model. Layered with coincidences and surprises, Joseph's on-the-lam nine-step self-help program achieves some of the novel's potential as a "Turn of the Screwball" black comedy. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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