The Way Men Act (1992)

by Elinor Lipman

In humorous Elinor Lipman’s second novel, 30-year-old Melinda LeBlanc returns to the hometown where she had been a popular high school cheerleader to reboot her life. Single and undegreed, she goes to work as a flower arranger in her cousin’s shop, which is sandwiched between the stores of two former classmates: Dennis Vaughan's fly-fisherman supply shop and Libby Getchel’s high-end handmade clothing boutique. All three are alone (Dennis had a brief marriage to a college professor who left him for a woman) when boring classmates have settled down. Their business and personal lives make up the crux of the novel, which is misnamed, since it’s more about how both sexes act. Both business and romance hit bumps for Melinda before the novel resolves in the ending one expects in a romantic comedy. Outspoken and sassy, Melinda is not Elinor Lipman’s most lovable protagonist.

Amidst the comedy, Lipman tackles a couple of serious topics in The Way Men Act: racial prejudice (Dennis is African American) and bias against people who haven’t gone to college. Harrow, Massachusetts, is a college town where Melinda calls out more than one person for doubting her smarts.


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