Excerpt from The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Pursuit of Alice Thrift

by Elinor Lipman

The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman X
The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2003, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2004, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter 1
Tell the Truth

You may have seen us in "Vows" in The New York Times: me, alone, smoking a cigarette and contemplating my crossed ankles, and a larger blurry shot of us, postceremony, ducking and squinting through a hail of birdseed. We didn't have pretty faces or interesting demographics, but we had met and married in a manner that was right for SundayStyles: Ray Russo came to my department for a consultation. I said what I always said to a man seeking rhinoplasty: Your nose is noble, even majestic. It has character. It gives you character. Have you thought this through?

The Times had its facts right: We met as doctor and patient. I digitally enhanced him, capped his rugged, haunted face with a perfect nose and symmetrical, movie-star nostrils—and he didn't like what he saw on the screen. "Why did I come?" he wondered aloud, in a manner that suggested depth. "Did I expect this would make me handsome?"

"It's the way we've been socialized," I said.

"It's not like I have a deviated septum or anything. It's not like my insurance is going to pick up the tab."

Vanitas vanitatum: elective surgery, in other words.

He asked for my professional opinion. I said, "There's no turning back once we do this, so take some time and think it over. There's no rush. I don't like to play God. I'm only an intern doing a rotation here."

"But you must see a lot of noses in life, on the street, and you must have an artistic opinion," said Ray.

"If it were I, I wouldn't," I said for reasons that had nothing to do with aesthetics and everything to do with the nauseating sound of bones cracking under mallets in the OR.

"Really? You think the one I have is okay?"

"May I ask why you want to do this now, Mr. Russo?" I asked, glancing at the chart that told me he'd turn forty in a month.

"Let's be honest: Women like handsome men," he said, voice wistful, eyes downcast.

What could I say except a polite "And you don't think you're handsome enough? Do you think women judge you by the dimensions of your nose?"

Next to me he smiled. The camera mounted above the monitor played it back. He had good teeth.

"I haven't been very lucky in love," he added. "I'm forty-five and I don't have a girlfriend."

"Is your date of birth wrong?" I asked, pointing to the clipboard.

"Oh, that," he said. "I knock five years off when I'm filling out a job application because of age discrimination, even at forty-five. Bad habit. I forgot you should always tell the truth on medical forms."

"And what is your field?"

"I'm in business, self-employed."

I asked what field.

"Concessions. Which puts me before the public. Wouldn't you think that if everything was okay in the looks department, I'd have met someone by now?"

I hated this part—the psychiatry, the talking. So instead of asserting what is hard to practice and even harder to preach in my chosen field—that beauty's only skin deep and vastly overrated—I pecked at some keys and moved the mouse. We were back to Ray's original face, bones jutting, cartilage flaring, nose upstaging, a face that my less scrupulous attending physicians would have loved to pin to their drawing boards. If it sounds as if I saw something there, some goodness, some quality of mercy or masculinity that overrode the physical, I didn't. I was flattering him to serve my own principles, my own anti–plastic surgery animus. Ray Russo thought my silence meant I wouldn't change a hair.

"Vows" would reconstruct our consultation, with Ray remembering, "I heard something in her voice. Not that there was a single unprofessional moment between us, but I had an inkling she may have been saying ‘No, don't fix it' in order to terminate our doctor-patient relationship and embark on a personal one."

Excerpted from The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman Copyright© 2003 by Elinor Lipman. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Let It Bang
    Let It Bang
    by RJ Young
    Every interracial love story is an exercise in complications. R.J. Young and Lizzie Stafford's ...
  • Book Jacket: A Spark of Light
    A Spark of Light
    by Jodi Picoult
    The central premise of A Spark of Light involves a gunman holding hostages within the confines of a ...
  • Book Jacket: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    by Hank Green
    As one half of the extremely popular YouTube duo "Vlogbrothers" (the other half being his brother ...
  • Book Jacket: Waiting for Eden
    Waiting for Eden
    by Elliot Ackerman
    Elliot Ackerman's latest novel, Waiting for Eden, follows Marine Eden Malcom as his death ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Kinship of Secrets
    by Eugenia Kim

    Two sisters grow up bound by family but separated by war; inspired by a true story.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    A Ladder to the Sky
    by John Boyne

    A seductive, unputdownable psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Severance

Severance by Ling Ma

An offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire that is featured on more than twenty 2018 "Must Read" lists!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Ain't O U T F L S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.