By Louis Begley
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 369 pages
Louis Begley’s Schmidt Steps Back is an energetic, somewhat snarky look into the life of Schmidt at the time of Obama’s election. Schmidt is a widower that has fallen hard for a co-worker’s widow, Alice. Alice waffles back and forth about their relationship but allows Schmidt to fly back and forth to Paris (from New York) to see her. She slowly reveals to Schmidt the idiosyncrasies of her marriage to Tim, Schmidt’s protégé at the law firm. Besides Schmidt’s relationship to Alice, the story also exposes Schmidt’s contentious relationship to his daughter and son-in-law.
The reviewer has not read the previous books in the Schmidt series and therefore had a difficult time connecting to the story. Between all the drinking and money, topics such as AIDS, 9/11 and the Oklahoma bombing entered the storyline, which did not make the reviewer feel too sorry for the cast of characters and their “problems.”
Reviewed by Seniye Groff