In 411 BC, the Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote his bold, bawdy comedy Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens banish men from their beds as a ploy to end the Peloponnesian War. Meg Wolitzer’s subtle spin on the classic tale contemplates an entirely different kind of sex strike—one that befalls a woman without warning.
In a New Jersey suburb so vividly imagined you could swear you once shopped at a Costco there, Fran Heller, the town’s ballsy new drama coach, selects Lysistrata for her high school’s winter production. During months of rehearsal, hormonally hyped teens and their wiped-out teachers fall under the play’s spell: “The wind picked up and the temperature dropped . . . and all over that town, you could hear the word ‘no.’ ”
The novel’s lust lockout is less about sexual politics than about the fluctuations of the human heart—the crescendo and crash of first love, the quiet discontents of marriage and the mutable laws of attraction. One long-married teacher turns away from her husband night after night until “what they’d done all these years became something from the past, a lost piece of their joined life, a delicious meal they’d once eaten, and were possibly about to forget.”
Lifting the veil on intimacy that has “caved in and collapsed,” Wolitzer has written a novel that may tempt you to muse on the ups and downs of your own erotic life. —Sally Koslow
1¼ cups gingersnap-
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted
½ cup fresh lemon juice
(about 2 lemons)
1 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter, cut
1 tablespoon lemon zest
(about 1 lemon)
1 cup whipping cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350º. The crust: Stir together all ingredients, and press into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool.
2. The filling: In a wide saucepan, whisk together lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks and eggs. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour it through a sieve set over the metal bowl of an electric mixer; whip on medium speed, adding the butter, piece by piece, until incorporated. Turn mixer to high, and continue whipping until mixture is fluffy
and cool, about 10 minutes. Add zest. In a separate bowl, whip the cream into soft peaks. Mix a third of the cream into the lemon mixture; fold in the rest.
3. Freeze 4 to 5 hours. Thaw slightly before serving.