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.)
Reviewed on: 05/25/2015 Release date: 08/04/2015 Genre: Fiction
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