Nicholas M. Rinaldi, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-057876-3

Intertwining stories by the author of The Jukebox Queen of Malta offer subtle portraits of the residents of Echo Terrace, a fictitious Battery Park building in which the condominiums are named after the likes of Mae West, Susan B. Anthony and Grandma Moses. At the book's center is the inimitable Romanian concierge, Farro Fescu, who watches with keen eyes the comings and goings of the intriguing inhabitants, including Karl Vogel, a Luftwaffe pilot engaged in an affair with a journalist whose grandfather was killed by a Nazi fighter pilot ("She is making peace with the enemy," Karl thinks); Yesenia, a captivating 19-year-old housemaid who is brutally raped on the way home to her Queens apartment; and Theo, a plastic surgeon who falls for a widow whose husband admitted to an affair and shortly thereafter died of a heart attack. Devastated, the woman, Nora, poisons her exotic pets ("Whatever I love, I make it die") and then walks into traffic. With Nora in a coma, her young actress niece, Angela, moves into her apartment and enters into an unlikely affair with a poem-quoting undertaker who is convinced that love can conquer all. Among a few bizarre twists, a young designer falls (or is pushed) from a window, and Theo is drafted by the FBI to perform a sex-change operation on one of Augusto Pinochet's collaborators. These are complex, moving stories without straightforward resolutions—as one character remarks, "Life is heavy, it weighs"—and if they feel a bit overwritten sometimes, Rinaldi compensates for this with multifaceted and memorable characters. Agent, Nat Sobel . (June 1)

Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-06-057877-0
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