Down Under

  • Review
By – May 22, 2014

Can star-crossed teenage lovers get anoth­er chance at hap­pi­ness twen­ty years lat­er? Aging, dis­ap­point­ed, and con­fused, Jew­ish Westch­ester house­wife Judy fleet­ing­ly recon­nects with her for­mer love on Face­book. Equal­ly aging and dis­ap­point­ed, Irish-Catholic Col­lum — now a world-famous actor — bites at her feel­er. The two were forcibly and abrupt­ly sep­a­rat­ed years before, and both are look­ing past their cur­rent weari­some lives to see if young love can be rekindled. 

Judy Pin­cus and Col­lum Whit­sun led an in­tense Romeo-and-Juli­et high school exis­tence, Judy’s strict and inno­cent upbring­ing with the req­ui­site high expec­ta­tions in direct con­trast to the Whit­suns’ often vio­lent and drunk­en ways, which were com­plete with dis­plays of ram­pant anti-Semi­tism. The young lovers planned to run away togeth­er, but Judy’s father suf­fered a health scare and Collum’s father whisked his fam­i­ly away from lib­er­al Amer­i­ca to seek refuge on a ranch in Aus­tralia. Col­lum even­tu­al­ly finds his way to movie star­dom and Judy is ensconced in a com­fort­able, if hum­drum, mar­riage with twin teenage boys, but nei­ther for­get their promis­es and love. 

The clev­er­ly titled chap­ters detail the lives of Col­lum, Judy, Judy’s per­fect” friend Hei­di, their chil­dren, and their spous­es. The dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters’ sto­ries alter­nate­ly run par­al­lel and con­verge, offer­ing a most enjoy­able read. Down Under is a clever, humor­ous, wit­ty, deeply insight­ful, and some­times absurd nov­el. The hon­est truths of long-term mar­riages and rais­ing chal­leng­ing chil­dren, as well as the some­times harsh real­i­ties of women’s friend­ships are explored with kind­ness, depth, and intel­li­gence. Dra­mat­ic scenes are inter­posed with light­heart­ed capers and events as the char­ac­ters inter­act in hilar­i­ous and touch­ing sce­nar­ios. We sym­pa­thize with the foibles and long­ings of imper­fect peo­ple try­ing to fill up the holes in their lives. 

Do old pas­sions, lust, and a sense of liv­ing on the edge tru­ly off­set tedious lives? Though these char­ac­ters are com­pli­cat­ed and mis­un­der­stood, they nev­er­the­less must deal with respon­si­bil­i­ties, famil­ial oblig­a­tions, and old resent­ments. Is a sec­ond chance pos­si­ble? Taitz mas­ter­ly explores the nuances of love, loy­al­ty, desire, and contentment.

Relat­ed Content:

Reni­ta Last is a mem­ber of the Nas­sau Region of Hadassah’s Exec­u­tive Board. She has coor­di­nat­ed the Film Forum Series for the Region and served as Pro­gram­ming and Health Coor­di­na­tors and as a mem­ber of the Advo­ca­cy Committee.

She has vol­un­teered as a docent at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty teach­ing the all- impor­tant lessons of the Holo­caust and tol­er­ance. A retired teacher of the Gift­ed and Tal­ent­ed, she loves par­tic­i­pat­ing in book clubs and writ­ing projects.

Discussion Questions