The Doctor's House
Ann Beattie is famous for her light touch and fluid style, neither of which are in evidence in her latest, The Doctor’s House, a dysfunction-by-numbers novel in three voices. It is told by the family of an unbelievably mean M.D. — his daughter, Nina, a withdrawn widow; her older brother, Andrew, a skirt-chaser seeking out old girlfriends; and their alcoholic mother. To make this Rashomon device work, Beattie builds the book on coincidences and far-fetched friendships; half of Andrew’s lovers, for instance, divulge secrets to his sister. The narrators write in unironic self-help-ese, and the narration itself is bracketed by mini-fables, apparently ”written” by Nina, that lend a mythic air: ”The remedy for hurt fairy wings is as follows. Wet them with tears and roll in sunbeams.” Awww.