Best of 2013: Fin & Lady, by Cathleen Schine
FIN & LADY, by Cathleen Schine. Sarah Crichton Books: 273 pp.
When I look back on 2013, I remember a period in the summer of really good reading. Seriously, I think I flew through four books in one week. One of those books, incidentally, was Fin & Lady, by Cathleen Schine.
It’s 1964 in New York, and Fin has become an orphan at the tender age of 11. At his father’s funeral, amidst the sympathy of well-meaning family and friends, in swoops Lady, Fin’s older half-sister who he hasn’t seen in six years. She is now his legal guardian and he her charge, a position neither of them expected to be in.
Lady is a woman of the world. She lives each day as if it’s her last, and she’s more than willing to take Fin on her whirlwind of a journey through life.
Schine’s writing style is fabulous; I just have to say it. This could have been a tragic story: a young boy, newly orphaned and uprooted from the life he’s always known to live under the care of the flighty half-sister he hasn’t seen in six years. But it was such a fun and tender read. The further I got in the story, the more I rooted for the two to make it together. I fell in love with these characters, and I wanted them to succeed.
I loved the way that Fin steps up as the “man of the house.” He’s much younger than his sister, and yet he assumes this protective role when it comes to the men she brings around the house. As their relationship develops, and as they start to acclimate to their new way of living, they start to take care of each other. There is space for both to be vulnerable, because they learn to trust that the other will be there to support them.
In Fin & Lady, we see an unconventional family build and come into itself after terrible tragedy. They say you can choose you’re friends, but you’re stuck with your family. Fin & Lady is an example that you choose both. In obvious ways, you choose your friends. But you choose the dynamic you have with your family. What you put into the relationship is what you get out of it, regardless of any age difference or true blood-connection.