New York City of the 1970s is what you discover in Lynn Steward’s debut novel, A Very Good Life. If you miss the Manhattan of that era (or missed it altogether) you’ll especially enjoy the ambiance re-created within the pages of this book.
Stepping into A Very Good Life is much like walking into the legendary New York City department store, B. Altman, in which so much of the novel unfolds – it’s subdued, elegant and reveals its facets moment by moment.
Lynn Steward highlights nuances of 70s life in New York City that are rarely featured in books or in films set in that decade. This is not the chaotic, crisis-ridden New York that Saul Bellow captured in Mr. Sammler’s Planet or that Al Pacino inhabited in The Panic in Needle Park. A Very Good Life isn’t focused on the hard edges. Instead it sheds gentle light on the classic city.
Ms. Steward’s novel takes the reader away from today’s touchscreen existence back to a time in New York when telephones rang and typewriters clacked on cluttered desks. A time when stand-up ashtrays were part of office decor and dry martinis were ordered with each business lunch. A time when customers dressed up to visit New York’s oldest and grandest store then shopped for scarves, hats, slippers, gloves and more – each category of item displayed reverently in its own dedicated department. But there is nothing old fashioned about this novel. Dana McGarry, the main character, navigates marriage, career and New York’s stratified social scene in a way that resonates across the decades.
A Very Good Life invites you to revel in the New York of the recent past. If you are a native New Yorker, it also allows you the satisfaction of recognizing the people, places and concerns that were the focus of Manhattan attention during those gritty yet glamorous years. But the characters are what linger after you finish reading the book. Lynn Steward brings them to life with spare, masterful strokes of detail that leave you feeling as if you’ve known them forever not as if you’ve just met them within the pages of a novel. Non-stop momentum accompanied by straightforward, often poignant conversations drive each revelation. It’s a New York story told in New York style. It’s available everywhere including online and on site at New York City’s leading independent purveyor of books, St Mark’s Bookshop.