Sunday, October 19, 2008
Review: The New Yorkers
The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine
Reasons for reading: saw it in Shelf Awareness and read some really good reviews of it; October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month for the Every Month is a Holiday Challenge; Set in New York for Triple 8 Challenge
From the publisher: "On a quiet little block near Central Park, five lonely New Yorkers find one another, compelled to meet by their canine companions. Over the course of four seasons, they emerge from their apartments, in snow, rain, or glorious sunshine to make friends and sometimes fall in love."
My thoughts: I really enjoyed Schine's writing style - she created an excellent portrait of each of her characters (and their dogs).
Jody is approaching 40 and she teaches music, plays the violin, and lives in a studio apartment with her white pit bull mix, Beatrice. Jody is outwardly a cheerful spinster, but she suffers from loneliness and terrible insomnia. When she runs into Everett and his smile (see below) on the street and later takes to looking for him from her window, she starts to long for more than her dog and violin.
Polly (who stood out the most for me) is in her mid-20's and is reeling from a break-up. Despite often not feeling confident on the inside, she was born with a very commanding voice, so people tend to listen to her. This has made her rather bossy and prone to wanting to help people whether they want it or not. Polly's dog is Howdy, a beautiful golden puppy she inherited when she moved into the apartment of a dead man. (Favourite Polly moment: "Polly put a large degree of faith in fate, once she had decided exactly what it was that fate would deliver.")
George, Polly's older brother is handsome and gallant, but aimless. Despite his conviction during his childhood that he was gifted (he was just never sure at what), he drifts from job to job and girl to girl. When Polly needs a roommate, he allows himself to be bossed into moving in, but discovers that in addition to wanting to make his sister happy, he comes to love Howdy (even when he's not using the dog as a "chick magnet.")
Everett is a recently divorced 50-year-old curmudgeon. He seems to dislike just about everything except his college-aged daughter. But he has a beautiful smile that changes his whole demeanor and this is enough to attract both Polly and Jody to him. Which woman will win his heart (a heart that's in danger of being stolen by Howdy)?
Simon is an "asocial social worker" who lives for every November, when he goes to Virginia for a month to pursue his passion - fox hunting. The rest of the year he lives in a rather dreary first-floor apartment, eating his meals at the Go Go Grill. But when he starts running into Jody and her big white dog in the neighbourhood, he thinks he might have found something to replace hunting in his heart.
The Go Go, run by gay Jamie who has a rich boyfriend and a passel of children, plays a central role - George gets a bartending job there (which is the main factor in moving in with Polly) and the restaurant allows dogs, so our lovers (both dog-lovers and lovers of each other) meet there often. The villain of the piece is Doris, an orange-haired-and-faced elderly woman who declares war on the "canine violations" of the neighbourhood and can often be heard to say "What do think this is, Paris?"
The characters are all fairly ordinary - there's nothing big or sweeping to the book, it's just a year in the life of a New York city community (which is populated by many dog-owners from all walks of life). But even small stories about dogs and their owners can be entertaining if well-written, and this book is. It's perfect for dog-lovers, city dwellers, or anyone else. Plus, isn't the cover irresistable?