A landlady gets more involved with her tenants than she prefers
Celia, an emotionally crushed young widow, owns a four unit Brooklyn brownstone. Hope, a hot 40 something emotionally crushed divorcee, sublets one of the apartments but Hope’s noisy and brutalizing trysts are too much for Celia to overhear. Celia has always been careful to maintain a safe distance between herself and her tenants. Or has she? The reader learns that she is actually ministering to Mr. Coughlan, the elderly sea captain on the top floor as well as carefully observing the tension between the married couple, the Braunsteins. Once Celia gets more involved, first with Hope, then the others, she disturbs submerged feelings she can no longer control.
At first this book transported me, then the character motivations and at times the prose (check out the last sentence) got too difficult to easily follow. So grieving women develop a dangerous taste for rough sex? Well, maybe. Also, Celia had zero sense of humor which tended to make her first person narration claustrophobic. Nonetheless, these questions didn’t derail the book for me, and the rhythms of the prose were often beautiful. The Celia/Hope story comes to a fulfilling conclusion, although the other tenants’ stories are given short shrift. Unfortunately, this novel was ultimately disappointing.