A beautifully wrought story of an ad hoc family and the crisis they must overcome together. Read more...
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A beautifully wrought story of an ad hoc family and the crisis they must overcome together.
Edith is a widowed landlady who rents apartments in her Brooklyn brownstone to an unlikely collection of humans, all deeply in need of shelter. Crippled in various ways in spirit, in mind, in body, in heart the renters struggle to navigate daily existence, and soon come to realize that Edith s deteriorating mind, and the menacing presence of her estranged, unscrupulous son, Owen, is the greatest challenge they must confront together.
Faced with eviction by Owen and his designs on the building, the tenants Paulie, an unusually disabled man and his burdened sister, Claudia; Edward, a misanthropic stand-up comic; Adeleine, a beautiful agoraphobe; Thomas, a young artist recovering from a stroke must find in one another what the world has not yet offered or has taken from them: family, respite, security, worth, love.
The threat to their home scatters them far from where they ve begun, to an ascetic commune in Northern California, the motel rooms of depressed middle America, and a stunning natural phenomenon in Tennessee, endangering their lives and their visions of themselves along the way.
With humanity, humor, grace, and striking prose, Kathleen Alcott portrays these unforgettable characters in their search for connection, for a life worth living, for home."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-05-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Alcott’s (The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets) new novel takes place in a sprawling Brooklyn brownstone, offering a peek into the complicated lives of the tenants who have come to live in it. The inhabitants include landlord Edith, sliding into senility; Paulie, a gentle man with Williams syndrome, and his sister, Claudia, who takes care of him; Thomas, a struggling artist; and the beautiful, sensitive Adeleine. The future of these characters, and the brownstone itself, is put at risk when Edith’s money-grubbing son, Owen, attempts to foreclose the building and force the tenants out. The threat of eviction—and Edith’s slow, alarming drift from reality—inspires the tenants to seek out a way to save the property with urgency, as the story culminates in a Little Miss Sunshine–style road trip. Alcott’s writing has an acute sensory quality, and she’s at her imaginative best when describing the small, quotidian moments of her characters’ lives: when Thomas gets a headache, it takes hold “with the swift efficiency of a team of movers: whole parts of his body emptied in minutes.” The writing is dreamy and easy to inhabit, but is occasionally undermined by its tendency toward abstraction, when it would benefit more from precise plot development. Nevertheless, Alcott’s writing is generous, and her peculiar cast of characters memorable. (Aug.)