Anything for Jane
Charles and Anne Braithwaite, the parents in Cheryl Mendelson's engaging new novel, Anything for Jane (Random House), are the epitome of Manhattan liberals: clever, artistic, and completely besotted by their four children, particularly the eldest, Jane, who is a gifted opera singer and rudely self-absorbed teen. The Braithwaites are smugly confident in their parenting skills and the wisdom of giving every possible advantage to their offspring. They try to do the right thing and enjoy their role at the epicenter of a serious and socially aware network of friends. And so when trouble, in the form of their extremely unwell housekeeper and her homeless nephew, enters their world (taking up residence in the tiny maid's room), they are indulgent enough to allow the intrusion and naive enough not to realize the implications of what they've set in motion. With a disarming young priest, an acerbic social activist, and a childless doctor as supporting cast, Anything for Jane dissects the clash of values that plays out in the Braithwaites' apartment at a lively clip. As with all the best novels of manners, this one opens with a description of the world as it's meant to be and signals that this world is about to change. The change comes, of course, via the younger generation, with Jane and the nephew allowing each other an escape route from the predestined path each is on. Given the conventions of the genre, we know all will ultimately end well, and yet so sure-footed is Mendelson as a writer, we nonetheless are surprised and uplifted by how she carries her young couple to a new world order.
— Elaina Richardson