Ms. Demeanor (2022)

by Eleanor Lipman

Jane Morgan, a 39-year-old New York lawyer, is spied having sex with a younger coworker on the roof of her Manhattan apartment building. The judge makes an example of her, sentencing Jane to six months of home confinement for gross indecency. Her male accomplice gets only a fine.

A righting-wrongs tale is not in the style of Lipman, one of contemporary literature’s foremost satirists. Instead she creates amusement as Jane experiments with how to spend her time during confinement. Her twin sister talks her into capitalizing on her cooking skills by demonstrating recipes on TikTok. Then Jane discovers another felon who lives in her building and also wears an ankle monitor. Perry, an art handler for an auction house, pickpocketed a teapot lid hoping that the tea set would be discounted so he could buy it for his parents. Perry asks Jane to cook for him three nights a week and eventually proposes they add a side of sex.

Jane also tries to find out more about the snoopy woman who called the police on her, which leads to revelations about a birth mother and a probable murder. None of this is treated gravely by Lipman. In fact, the reader could miss what might be the impressive feminist aspect of the novel: Jane has no guilt. Far from acting like a fallen woman, she is unrepentant about the one-night rooftop stand and about her arrangement with Perry.

Her 14th novel proves that Lipman has not lost any of her wit.


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