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With a delicate but assured touch, Lowell's poignant first novel explores the meaning of love, family and identity. Theo Bouvier is a successful New York City caterer; Claire Hirsh is a highly acclaimed photographer. When they fall in love, all that remains to complete their happiness is the child Claire desperately wants. This is a bit of a problem, since both Theo and Claire are women, but they embark on a careful, gently hilarious, search for a father. It is their now-grown child, William Roland Bouvier Hirsh-known as Willy-who tells the story of his unusual family, sifting through his recollections and carefully examining each memory from different angles. For his first few years, Willy knows only the unconditional love of his mothers and their extended family, his life a joyous round of days spent in the kitchen with Theo or in the darkroom with Claire. For a time Willy even seems to soften his grandmother Hirsh's disapproval of Claire. But these are the 1960s, before such families were commonplace, and when Willy faces the outside world he finds that his peers and their parents are ready to condemn him and his mothers, whom they regard as criminals. As Willy's grandmother begins the process that will tear his family apart, he learns for the first time that cruelty can be inflicted by those who claim to love. Claire makes a distinction: ``For love, you should be willing to go anywhere, to Brooklyn, if necessary!'' This is a book to go to Brooklyn for. (June)

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