Serendipity is an intergenerational coming-of-age story set in the present day. The main heroine is Carrie Manning who has just lost her mother, the beautiful and once socially prominent Rose Manning, with whom she had had a difficult, yet loving, relationship. But that relationship was not as difficult as Rose’s relationship with her mother, Lu Lawson, a Broadway legend. They had been estranged since Carrie was a very small child, since, in fact, the death of Carrie’s father, Bobby Manning. Bobby was another Broadway legend, having written six hit shows back-to-back. Carrie had no memory of either her father or grandmother, Lu. In her grief, Carrie sets out to learn about her mother’s family and why Rose had decided to cut herself off from them. Why Rose devoted her life to good works, preferring to live simply without frills or lavishness despite the high income she had from Bobby’s residuals, which she mostly gave away to charity. Carrie also learns the story of her great-grandmother, Mifalda, an Italian immigrant who raised Rose. It is a fascinating journey, and Carrie learns a lot about herself as well as the family she never knew.

Ms Shaffer has written a story with humor and intelligence in complicated flashbacks. Yet the plot unfolds and flows with graceful prose. The characters are strong, and well developed. There is a grittiness about Serendipity that is believable. You know these people or people like them, the problems they faced and overcame, their strengths and weaknesses, and you like them despite their flaws.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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