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The Party Upstairs
by Lee Conell




Overview -
An electrifying debut novel that unfolds in the course of a single day inside one genteel New York City apartment building, as tensions between the building's super and his grown-up daughter spark a crisis that will, by day's end, change everything.

Ruby has a strange relationship to privilege. She grew up the super's daughter in the basement of an Upper West Side co-op that gets more gentrified with each passing year. Though not economically privileged herself, her close childhood friendship with Caroline, the daughter of affluent tenants, and the mere fact of living in such a wealthy neighborhood, close to her beloved Natural History Museum, brought her certain advantages, even expectations. Naturally Ruby followed her dreams and took out loans to attend a prestigious small liberal arts college and explore her interest in art. But now, out of school for a while, she is no closer to her dream job, or anything resembling it, and she's been forced by circumstances to do the last thing she wanted to do: move back in with her parents, back into the basement. And Caroline is throwing one of her parties tonight, in her father's glorious penthouse apartment, a party Ruby looks forward to and dreads in equal measure.

With a thriller's narrative control, The Party Upstairs distills worlds of wisdom about families, great expectations, and the hidden violence of class into the gripping, darkly witty story of a single fateful day inside the Manhattan co-op Ruby calls home. Told from the alternating points of view of Ruby and her father, the novel builds from the spark of an early morning argument between them to the ultimate conflagration to which it leads by day's end. By the time the ashes have cooled, the fa ade that masks the building's power structure will have burned away, and no party will be left unscathed.

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More About The Party Upstairs by Lee Conell

 
 
 

Overview

An electrifying debut novel that unfolds in the course of a single day inside one genteel New York City apartment building, as tensions between the building's super and his grown-up daughter spark a crisis that will, by day's end, change everything.

Ruby has a strange relationship to privilege. She grew up the super's daughter in the basement of an Upper West Side co-op that gets more gentrified with each passing year. Though not economically privileged herself, her close childhood friendship with Caroline, the daughter of affluent tenants, and the mere fact of living in such a wealthy neighborhood, close to her beloved Natural History Museum, brought her certain advantages, even expectations. Naturally Ruby followed her dreams and took out loans to attend a prestigious small liberal arts college and explore her interest in art. But now, out of school for a while, she is no closer to her dream job, or anything resembling it, and she's been forced by circumstances to do the last thing she wanted to do: move back in with her parents, back into the basement. And Caroline is throwing one of her parties tonight, in her father's glorious penthouse apartment, a party Ruby looks forward to and dreads in equal measure.

With a thriller's narrative control, The Party Upstairs distills worlds of wisdom about families, great expectations, and the hidden violence of class into the gripping, darkly witty story of a single fateful day inside the Manhattan co-op Ruby calls home. Told from the alternating points of view of Ruby and her father, the novel builds from the spark of an early morning argument between them to the ultimate conflagration to which it leads by day's end. By the time the ashes have cooled, the fa ade that masks the building's power structure will have burned away, and no party will be left unscathed.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781984880277
  • ISBN-10: 1984880276
  • Publisher: Penguin Press
  • Publish Date: July 2020
  • Page Count: 320
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.15 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

The Party Upstairs

There’s nothing like a great New York City novel, and praise be to the novelists who take us there: Think Cathleen Schine, Elinor Lipman, Emma Straub, Jennifer Egan and now Lee Conell, whose exquisite debut gets to the heart of the city via the super of an Upper West Side co-op and his frustratingly underemployed daughter.

Martin lives in the building’s basement apartment with his wife, Debra, and 24-year-old daughter, Ruby, who has just moved home with an art history degree but no way to pay her student loans. Ruby’s friend Caroline, whose affluent family lives in the co-op penthouse, is also back home, but her wealth has cushioned the transition from college to what-comes-next. Though the girls have been friends since childhood, Ruby has grown increasingly discomfited by Caroline’s obliviousness to how her wealth brings her certain advantages.

The Party Upstairs is told over the course of a single day, beginning with an argument between father and daughter when Martin tries to get Ruby to meditate with him before work. Ruby readies herself for a job interview at the Museum of Natural History and plans to attend Caroline’s fancy penthouse party that night. Meanwhile, Martin’s anxiety is through the roof after dealing with needy tenants and his grumpy daughter, and now vivid memories of a recently deceased tenant are starting to trouble him. 

After a disheartening job interview, Ruby is further provoked by flashbacks of the decades of inequities between herself and Caroline and by an unfortunate run-in with a neighborhood photographer. By the time of the party, Ruby is moved to act out in a way that dramatically disrupts the course of her life and the lives of her parents.

Like Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, The Party Upstairs will make you laugh even as you grapple with how money defines many of its characters’ most significant choices. As chapters alternate between Ruby’s and Martin’s perspectives, Conell’s realistic dialogue and thoughtful plotting take us deep into the often unexpressed shame linked to financial uncertainty. The Party Upstairs is an on-the-nose, of-the-moment dark comedy that delves deep into issues of wealth, gender and privilege in the most iconic of American cities.

 

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