Vis­i­ble City

By – March 10, 2014

Some might think that liv­ing in a big city insures anonymi­ty. This sto­ry dis­proves that notion. In Tova Mirvis’s new nov­el, Vis­i­ble City, on one street, on the Upper West Side of Man­hat­tan, two fam­i­lies liv­ing direct­ly across from each oth­er come to life, at first glance, through their respec­tive liv­ing room win­dows. Rooms lit up at night beck­on one res­i­dent to watch with yearn­ing at what appears to be her neigh­bors’ peace­ful, lov­ing life. It isn’t long before neigh­bor­hood pat­terns have their paths cross at street lev­el, and friend­ships evolve and sto­ries unfold. But, says Nina, the main char­ac­ter, Even when the city con­tract­ed, tak­ing on the guise of small-town life, you had to main­tain the illu­sion of anonymi­ty.” Keep reading!

Tova Mirvis eas­i­ly orches­trates the intro­duc­tions and the grow­ing famil­iar­i­ty. What was vis­i­ble through the win­dows at night is in real­i­ty quite dif­fer­ent on the street and face-to-face. There is plea­sure in the new­ness of friend­ship. It eas­es the pain of anger, deep lone­li­ness, and long­ing for change. Con­tem­po­rary per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al issues are pre­sent­ed but not judged. Be a stay at home mom or con­tin­ue on a career path. Leave an Ortho­dox back­ground and live a sec­u­lar lifestyle. Con­front life-long emo­tion­al par­ent /​child expec­ta­tions. Eval­u­ate rela­tion­ships grown stale and mean­ing­less. Each char­ac­ter at once suf­fers and stretch­es and a jour­ney begins.

We meet Nina and Jere­my and their two small chil­dren on one side of the street. They appear to all, includ­ing them­selves, to be per­fect­ing their generation’s climb to suc­cess. On the oth­er side are Clau­dia and Leon, estab­lished, he a ther­a­pist, she an art his­to­ri­an, and their adult daugh­ter new­ly back home to recu­per­ate from an injury. A cast of sup­port­ing char­ac­ters moves the sto­ry along and rep­re­sents many time­ly urban issues.

Win­dows, both reveal­ing and reflect­ing, a long lost stained glass, an art form that is nev­er sta­t­ic,” long hid­den, beau­ti­ful secret places of New York City, and ref­er­ences to well known children’s lit­er­a­ture are prod­ucts of fine, cre­ative craft. All com­bined, the char­ac­ters, the set­ting, the clever metaphors and the very believ­able solu­tions make this a won­der­ful read.

Pen­ny Metsch, MLS, for­mer­ly a school librar­i­an on Long Island and in New York City, now focus­es on ear­ly lit­er­a­cy pro­grams in Hobo­ken, NJ.