Come from Nowhere
Greenfield’s novel opens with seven female characters sharing a subway platform on the morning of July 13, 1977—the day of a historic New York City blackout. Greenfield’s characters, each on her own mission, represent the city’s diversity and parallel story lines: there’s recent immigrant Althea and her daughter Celia; Judith, a Hasidic Jew bucking tradition by studying medicine at a secular college; Johanna, a homeless woman with schizophrenic delusions; recent college graduate Pia, hunting for a job that will allow her to “become the artist she was meant to be”; Danielle, a chef suffering from the gradual loss of her vision; and a mother rat protecting her offspring in the dangerous tunnels of the subway. Despite their differences, each character is headstrong, independent, and looking for a piece of the city to call her own. The novel’s secondary characters are less fully realized and function primarily as devices through which the women express feelings or share information with readers: a classmate of Judith questions her “extremist” religion and asks, “What do you get out of living the way you do?” While the dialogue and writing are heavy-handed at times, Greenfield’s novel is a richly imagined look at women from different walks of life and the possibilities, threats, and surprises offered up by life in New York City.