The Scenic Route
By Binnie Kirshenbaum
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780060784744, 317pp.)
Publication Date: May 2009
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Divorced, alone, and unexpectedly unemployed, Sylvia Landsman flees to Italy, where she meets Henry, a wistful, married, middle-aged expatriate. Taking off on a grand tour of Europe bankrolled with his wife's money, Henry and Sylvia follow a circuitous route around the continent—as Sylvia entertains Henry with stories of her peculiar family and her damaged friends, of dead ducks and Alma Mahler. Her narrative is a tapestry of remembrances and regrets...and her secret shame: a small, cowardly sin of omission. Yet when the opportunity arises for Sylvia and Henry to do something small but brave, the refrain "if only" returns to haunt her, leaving Sylvia with one more story of love lived and lost.
- Why would Sylvia think that it's better to do something foolish than to do nothing at all? What is it about the sin of omission, about passivity, that strikes her as so unforgivable?