At fifty, Pippa Lee seems just fine. The devoted wife of a brilliant publisher thirty years her senior, the proud mother of successful twins, and a lovely and adored friend and neighbor, she seems to glow with feminine serenity. But when her husband spontaneously decides they should cast off Gramercy Park for Marigold Village retirement home as a "preemptive strike against his decrepitude," Pippa finds her beatific persona unraveling in alarming ways: the truth is that the gracious woman of the present day has seen more than her fair share of the wild side. By seventeen, Pippa had lived with a Dexedrine-addicted mother, felt the first stirrings of sexuality with a school girlfriend, had an affair with a teacher, and run away from home, set adrift on a course littered with broken hearts—until she seemingly found love and security in a family of her own. And now that established world, too, is in danger.
In Pippa Lee we have an unforgettable heroine, and a quirky and acutely intelligent portrait of the many lives behind a single name. Even after we've read it, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is a story that is still unfurling.
In this promising first novel, screenwriter/director Miller (The Ballad of Jack and Rose) probes the life of housewife Pippa Lee. Fifty-year-old Pippa lives a contented life with her older husband, Herb. However, everything changes when Herb announces that they are leaving Manhattan for a retirement community. Unsettled in her new home, Pippa begins sleepwalking through life literally. She catches herself on a security camera cooking and eating while unconscious, then finds evidence that her somnambulist self has taken up smoking. In light of her erratic behavior, Pippa reconsiders the life she has built for herself and the example she is setting for her two grown children: raised by a pill-addicted mother, Pippa ran away from home at 17 and struggled with drugs, abusive relationships and her own feelings of guilt before looking for redemption in the family that she now worries is falling apart. Pippa's struggle to break the "chain of misunderstandings and adjustments" that passes from parent to child is moving. Despite a few moments of overwrought melodrama, the story's held together by Miller's sincere and intelligent protagonist.