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.