Picks and Pans Review: Alternatives to Sex

updated 04/03/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/03/2006 01:00AM

by Stephen McCauley
REVIEWED BY FRANCINE PROSE

CRITIC'S CHOICE

NOVEL

Tired of the brief, impersonal erotic encounters that he arranges over the Internet, Boston real estate agent William Collins—the hero of McCauley's funny and affecting new novel Alternatives to Sex —wishes that his life contained something slightly more meaningful than meeting strange men in hotel rooms, showing pricey properties and compulsively cleaning his apartment. Things slowly begin to change when he meets Charlotte and Samuel, an attractive, apparently happy couple who want to leave the leafy suburbs for the city and who imagine, as so many people do, that real estate might offer the key to solving their emotional problems. In the process of learning the truth about his two new friends, the restless William manages to unlock the secrets of his own heart. As always, McCauley, whose previous novels include The Object of My Affection, offers a series of lively and trenchant character portraits and a shrewd, appealing commentary on contemporary manners and morals.

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