Jill Ciment lives in New York, has a pet dachshund, and is married to an artist. This is also all part of the situation of her newest book, which has landed on Oprah's summer reading list. This tightly packed novel has three parallel plot lines, narrated with metropolitan charm by Elisabeth Rodgers. Alex and Ruth Cohen have been living in the same East Village apartment for almost five decades, and they have no idea how much it's worth, but they do know they are tired of climbing its five flights of stairs. They don't want to leave their neighborhood; they just want a place with an elevator.
Enter the real estate broker, by turns savvy and slimy, voiced by Rodgers with all the hilarious pomp and satire such a stereotype deserves. The Cohens are astounded to discover the asking price on their little apartment is a million bucks. They are also saddened to discover that their beloved dachshund, Dorothy, suddenly cannot use her hind legs. So the bulk of the story concerns the escalating stakes in the Cohens' pursuit of a situation that is better for their own legs and for Dorothy's.
As they rush back and forth between open houses and the surgical veterinary hospital, their progress is constantly interrupted by the fact that a suspected mad bomber is loose somewhere nearby. Rodgers does some very careful work with the tone here, as Ruth and Alex repeatedly find themselves sliding into awkward ethical dilemmas. As long as the terrorist is running amok, the offers on their apartment are getting larger. They must also decide whether to use a visit to Dorothy, recovering from her back surgery, as an excuse to outbid other prospective buyers. Some of the best bits here are when Rodgers narrates from the unique point of view of the cute little dog, a task more intricate and less cheesy than it sounds.
As the three plot lines converge, the narration gets ever more frantic. Will the bomber surrender? Will Dorothy ever walk again? Will the Cohens make enough money on the sale of their apartment to afford their dream apartment just a few blocks away? Rodgers constructs a very fine web of anxiety here, humanizing two of the most fundamental moral questions of our age that Ciment has neatly laid out: What would you do for a million dollars, and what wouldn't you do for just ten thousand more? Megan Volpert
New York City is on high alert: a gasoline truck is stuck in the Midtown tunnel and the driver has fled. Through panic and gridlock, Alex and Ruth must transport their beloved old dachshund, whose back legs are suddenly paralyzed, to the animal hospital, using a cutting board as a stretcher. But this is also the weekend when Alex and Ruth must sell the apartment in which they have lived for most of their adult lives.
Over the course of 48 hours, as the mystery of the missing truck driver terrorizes the city and the dachshund's life hangs in the balance, the bidding war over their apartment becomes a barometer for collective hope and despair. Told in shifting points of view - Alex's, Ruth's, and the little dog's - Heroic Measures is a moving, deft novel about urban anxiety and the love that deepens over years.
©2010 Jill Ciment (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"Read it for its painterly depictions of a rattled city, its deliciously biting satire of media and real estate madness, its tender knowledge of the creaturely ties that bind." (O, The Oprah Magazine)
"Ciment plays the veterinary, real estate and domestic details like elements of a thriller plot, while the couple's love of their dog provides heartrending texture." (Publishers Weekly)
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