Fin and Lady
A Novel by Cathleen Schine
2013 / 288 Pages
When 11-year-old Fin is unexpectedly orphaned in 1964 and placed into his older sister’s care, life begins to take on a new color of radiance and glamour. Lady is 24-years-old and has only seen her younger brother a handful of times, and her fast-paced life barely has room for a child. Luckily, Fin adores Lady and would do anything to please his extravagant sister, so he adapts to the new lifestyle quickly.
While Fin used to spend his days with his parents on their dairy farm in Connecticut, he now finds himself trailing after Lady through the bars, restaurants, and social scenes of New York City. But Fin soon learns that Lady’s life of enchantment has a complicated side – the suitors. Fin is charged with the duty of finding Lady a husband, but his sister won’t be easy to tie down, even if Fin does find the perfect husband for her. As more and more suitors line up for a chance with such a beautiful New York socialite, Fin finds his task increasingly difficult.
In the meantime, Fin is learning how to make cocktails, light cigarettes, and blow smoke rings. Being around adults constantly, young Fin enters a hazy adolescence. Part of him wants to go to baseball games and play outside with friends, and part of him wants to never leave Lady’s side as her protector, confidante, and loyal servant. Their relationship reminds me of Auntie Mame, where young Patrick is awakened to arts, literature, culture, and an eccentric group of peers through his Aunt Mame.
The New York City Fin encountered with Lady was utterly different from his earlier years of safe and comfortable routine. Lady did not believe in routine, or safety, or, frequently, in comfort, either. Lady’s downtown world was one of urgent, restless urbanity. Everything about his new home was full of color and noise and movement. To Fin it was as good as a circus.
Like Mame, Lady is full of color and charm, but she is also lonely, emotionally frantic, and quite lenient and inattentive when it comes to raising children. But also like Mame, Lady’s contemporaries adore her and pine for her attention, and Fin is no exception. As Fin grows older, his friendship with Lady deepens, but he becomes increasingly aware that he is not the only orphan in the house. While Lady may be independent and determined, she is also desperately searching for someone to care for her, and thus their relationship becomes a give and take of responsibility. What we are left with is a vibrant, dynamic portrait of perseverance, resilience, loyalty, and compromise in a unique and unforgettable family duo. One of the most entertaining and sparkling novels I’ve read all year, Fin and Lady is a superbly cast whirlwind of a story, and I was truly sad to turn the last page.