Heroic Measures is one of my all-time favorite books, so i was thrilled when this little slip of a book landed on my desk.
it’s nothing at all like h.m., and i didn’t like it nearly as much, but like the iridescent mushrooms that spur this story along, my appreciation of it was one of those creeper kinds that grows larger after some time has passed.
it’s kind of a quiet book – it’s funny and sad and brisk and a kind of fabulist-noir story whose real heart-kaboom lies in its characters and the way they are changed by what is, admittedly, a kooky series of events. on paper, it seems like it could be silly – edith and kat glasser are twins in their sixties who have led wildly different lives; kat has been out living her life with wild irresponsible abandon while edith is the steadfast retired legal librarian, keeper of secrets as well as an archived collection of their mother’s letters from her successful career as a beloved advice columnist. these letters are not the only things that are threatened when a phosphorescent fungus starts to invade their brooklyn townhouse, the spread of which results in their being evacuated by a hazmat team along with their distracted actress landlady vida cebu, and the 18-year-old russian girl who has been living in vida’s closet, completely unnoticed.
it sounds like it should be a farce, but the story starts to tread a darker path than i’d expected, as the women struggle to find home and safety, forgiveness and second chances as the fungus spreads farther and wider, displacing more people. ciment has that same quality that millhauser has – it’s a writing that manages to make the everyday human concerns somehow simultaneously more and less familiar by virtue of setting them in this just slightly off-kilter context. there’s nothing here that we haven’t experienced ourselves: loss, love, guilt, longing, rootlessness, purposelessness, financial and career panic, redemption – and yet they seem to hold more fascination here than they would in a more conventional story – they shine a little more brightly.
it’s a lovely little book, and i think that after my second skim-read before writing this review, i felt a little more warmly towards it than i did on my first go-round. which might come down to my notoriously numb feeling-parts when reading, because this is one of those books in which having fully-functioning emotions will help a lot, particularly towards the end.
it’s a 3.5, nearing the 4-
star cat range.
i do recommend it, and i hope you will also check out Heroic Measures.