An odd couple tracks down a mysterious suitor.
A heat-seeking missive sets off the action in Patricia Volk's deliciously mischievous new novel, To My Dearest Friends
(Knopf). Safely ensconced in her urn ("They call them cre
mains?" marvels a guest at the funeral), the late Roberta (Bobbie) has entrusted a passionate and potentially explosive love letter to two friends who barely know—and don't particularly like—each other. Nanny is a good-hearted, glasses-losing "lapsed therapist" turned real estate broker who signs her e-mails "Warmly,"; Alice is a list-making, hypereducated former Yeats scholar whose mantra is clearly "cast a cold eye." Ping-ponging between the two women's points of view, we eavesdrop on their thoughts, watch them spar ("I was her best friend," says Alice. "'You were her oldest friend,' Nanny corrects"), drop in on their worlds. Will Nanny find an apartment for the desperate young couple with a baby due any minute? Can Alice save her struggling consignment shop—sorry, "provenanced couture" boutique? And who is the mystery lover, and what on earth was Bobbie thinking? Acutely observed, peppered with sharp little insights, and steeped in native New Yorkiness, this deceptively light book has a lot to say about the complexity of friendship, the use and abuse of secrets, and the restorative power of love.