cover image Triburbia


Karl Taro Greenfeld. Harper, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-213239-0

In this absorbing first novel, Greenfeld (Boy Alone, a memoir) brings to life the capacious lofts, self-involved chefs, and occasional rent control holdouts of Manhattan’s affluent TriBeCa neighborhood (home to Robert De Niro and Jay-Z, among other celebs). Each chapter (titled by local addresses, such as 145 Greenwich, 65 Hudson, and 47 Lispenard) is told from the perspective of a different local character, from the fabulously affluent to the rent control holdouts. Their lives intersect and overlap because their children attend the same school, they’re sleeping with one another’s spouses, or, in Sadie’s case, because she’s the babysitter or, in Cooper’s case, because she’s queen of the fourth grade. Greenfeld’s chameleon-like ease for shifting characters refracts through the distinct language of thought, the emotional underpinnings of choices made, and the ways in which every life feels both unique and familiar, and his female characters are as authentic, if not more so, than the men. The result is a webby world in which details blend, repeat, and sometimes fade, exactly like running into a neighbor at the corner deli and not quite remembering who his brother is or with whom he may have had an affair. Early on, the book feels precariously provincial—beholden to the local jargon of real estate, gourmet food, and the distinctively insane obstacles of New York City public schools. And empathy for rich people, no matter how flawed, can be a tough sell these days. Ultimately, though, Greenfeld wields his critiques, humor, and observations to create a compelling little universe that will matter even to outsiders who don’t know that Lispenard Street will never be as glamorous as Greenwhich St. Agent: Billy Kingsland, Kuhn Projects. (Aug.)