Divorced, alone, and unexpectedly unemployed, Sylvia Landsman flees to Italy, where she meets Henry, a wistful, married, middle-aged expatriate.
Taking off on a grand tour of Europe bankrolled with his wife's money, Henry and Sylvia follow a circuitous route around the continent—as Sylvia entertains Henry with stories of her peculiar family and her damaged friends, of dead ducks and Alma Mahler.
Her narrative is a tapestry of remembrances and regrets...and her secret shame: a small, cowardly sin of omission. Yet when the opportunity arises for Sylvia and Henry to do something small but brave, the refrain "if only" returns to haunt her, leaving Sylvia with one more story of love lived and lost.
Praise for The Scenic Route
“The Scenic Route is a witty and poignant, and also an extremely interesting and acute, novel. Ms. Kirshenbaum mines a very rich seam that’s entirely her own. This is first-rate writing by a novelist who gracefully defies classification.”
“[A] moving, bittersweet novel."
"It takes skill and assurance to pull off this beguiling narrative-by-digression, a love story-cum-family history-cum-confession of sins, and Kirshenbaum has both in plentiful supply . . . there are no happy endings here; instead, Kirshenbaum delivers capital-T truths."
—Publisher's Weekly, (starred review)
“I can't imagine what Kirshenbaum told people who asked, "So, what's your novel about?" and yet it's continually engaging, the illusion of artlessness that only the disciplined artist can carry off.”
—The Washington Post
“. . . Kirshenbaum offers a refreshingly gimlet-eyed examination of memory, one that cuts through the gauzy layers imposed by time.”
—Time Out New York
“Kirshenbaum’s distinctive voice transforms a lightly plotted novel into an enchanting, tangent-strewn meditation on memory, love and luck. The narrative is a meandering, slightly sorrowful account of two people in love, but not quite brave enough to come up with a plan for a shared future. Lovely prose and quirky observations carry Kirshenbaum’s seventh novel.”
"Miraculously, Kirshenbaum avoids sentimentality. From the start, there is little room for a happy resolution. The slim hope makes it less fun and more tragic."
—Los Angeles Times