Picks and Pans Review: Then She Found Me

updated 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Elinor Lipman

This is a go-for-it-at-1-A.M. novel—one that has you so thoroughly captivated that you'll stay up to finish it no matter how early your alarm clock is set to start beeping.

Lipman, whose previous book was a short story collection, Into Love and Out Again, has written an affecting, funny novel about people who are seeking, whether they admit it or not, love and ties that bind.

April Epner, Lipman's 36-year-old heroine, is a never-married Radcliffe graduate who teaches Latin at a Quincy, Mass., high school. Adopted as an infant and brought up happily by two concentration camp refugees, she has always assumed that her real parents were "two faceless and cheap teenagers doing it listlessly in the unfinished basement where they jitterbugged unchaperoned." Several years after her adoptive parents die, her birth mother finds her.

"Bernice Graverman was my mother, all right, and I hated her within minutes," April says. Bernice is a good-looking, sex-happy, foul-mouthed local celebrity, the hostess of a Boston TV talk show. She tells April that her real father was John F. Kennedy, that he picked up Bernice when she was a 16-year-old salesgirl at a department store and he was 29 and running for Congress. "I wanted to tell her that she was either cruel or crazy and in either case insulting my intelligence," April says. "I considered, 'You are a sick woman,' or 'You're lying.' I settled on, 'I don't look like him at all.' "

April, against her better judgment, visits the school library to research dates on J.F.K.'s congressional campaigns and finds herself drawn to the puckish librarian, a fellow she had at first, second and third glance dismissed as a dork. How April discovers who her real father is, how she and Bernice slowly manage to figure out their version of a mother-daughter relationship, and how April finally opens herself up to love and marriage make up the rest of Lipner's warmhearted, witty and limpidly written tale. (Pocket, $18.95)

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