A Likely Story
CBS New York Book Club with Mary Calvi Pick
“A thoroughly modern story of family mistakes and redemption that I couldn’t put down.” —KJ Dell’Antonia, New York Times bestselling author
The only child of an iconic American novelist discovers a shocking tangle of family secrets that upends everything she thought she knew about her parents, her gilded childhood, and her own stalled writing career in this brilliantly observed standout debut.
Growing up in the nineties in New York City as the only child of famous parents was both a blessing and a curse for Isabelle Manning. Her beautiful society hostess mother, Claire, and New York Times bestselling author father, Ward, were the city’s intellectual It couple. Ward’s glamorous obligations often took him away from Isabelle, but Claire made sure her childhood was always filled with magic and love.
Now an adult, all Isabelle wants is to be a successful writer like her father but after many false starts and the unexpected death of her mother, she faces her upcoming thirty-fifth birthday alone and on the verge of a breakdown. Her anxiety only skyrockets when she uncovers some shocking truths about her parents and begins wondering if everything she knew about her family was all based on an elaborate lie.
Wry, wise, and propulsive, A Likely Story is punctuated with fragments of a compulsively readable book-within-a-book about a woman determined to steal back the spotlight from a man who has cheated his way to the top. The characters seem eerily familiar but is the plot based on fact? And more importantly, who is the author?
In Abramson's clever debut, the daughter of a famous novelist wants to be a writer, too. Isabelle Manning grows up in Manhattan idolizing her narcissistic father, Ward. But when her mother dies, she's still floundering at 34, both professionally and in her personal life. Her own novels have been rejected by publishers, and she won't allow her friendship with college classmate Brian to develop into romance. Ward is equally at sea: each of his recent books have sold fewer copies than the last, his current project is stalled, and he's beginning to worry he might have dementia. Abramson periodically interrupts her stories of the frustrated writers with passages from a manuscript about a woman who forges her artist husband's work after his death. Before Abramson reveals the author of this manuscript along with the source of its inspiration, Isabelle makes her way into the city's literary scene, then wonders if it's where she belongs after all. Though the tone shifts vertiginously from acerbic wit to heightened sentiment, the inventive structure keeps readers guessing about what the manuscript will reveal about the Mannings. It lands as a thought-provoking meditation on family.