This is a gentle story gently told about a girl, Rusty Scanlon, whose father left her when she was six. This fact has informed her whole life so far. Rusty is successful; she owns a fashionable boutique in New York and loves her work. We meet her when she discovers she is pregnant – and delighted – as she loves the baby’s father, Walter Margolis.
“A baby,” she whispers to the silent tiled room. “I’m going to have a baby.” She peers down and leans over, getting her face as close as possible to her belly and gives the air a little kiss.”
The fact that she is pregnant makes her think and wonder about her father; she has always missed him and remembers him quite well, even though she was so young. Why had he left her, and her mother, Nadine?
The characters in this book are well drawn; Nadine is very much her own self – stylish and attractive, a yoga teacher who does her best to get on with her daughter. Threir relationship is complex but loving.
Walter is an odd person with his own individual way of speaking; he is a serious man who considers every situation with slow deliberation, especially the fact that he is going to be a father. He has his own unhappy memories from childhood which make him wary and a bit withdrawn but he does love Rusty.
The book is written in sections; from different points of view, and from past and present circumstances. This is always a good thing in a book – it breaks up the action and fills out the whole story.
Rusty decides to find her father, Jack Paul, just about the same time he decides to find her. He gets a temporary job, teaching woodwork to teenage boys and discovers that he really enjoys it, and that he is very good at it.
Not only does he take pride in their achievements, but when their mitered, mahogany-stained picture frames, and their hinged boxes are chosen for display in the showcase of the high school lobbywith ‘Instructor: Jack Paul Scanlon,’ printed a little placard resting on a shelf in the case, he practically wears out the rubber on his Adidas tennis shoes, finding excuses to walk by and admire their work. I taught them that , he’d say to himself. I taught them that.
On the negative side the title “Feminine Products” seems a little strange. One immediately thinks of shampoos and perfumes and skin creams and it doesn’t appear to have any connection to the story at all.
There are long passages in the book which could be lifted out altogether without disturbing the flow of the story; with a bit of tweaking they would make good short stories, particularly parts involving Jack Paul.