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At the risk of sounding like a Peeping Tom I recently wrote about the allure of viewing other people’s lives through lit windows. As a fan of Hitchcock’s Rear Window I’ve watched it numerous times and never tire of the initial premise; observing people surreptitiously, imagining their lives, consumed by a vague longing based not on reality, but some sort of unidentifiable nostalgia. That’s why my heart skipped a beat when I saw a review of a new book by Tova Mirvis called Visible City. Prone to judging a book by its cover, I was drawn to the illustration of silhouettes framed by illuminated windows in an apartment building.
The book did not disappoint. In fact, after turning the last page I continued to think about the characters—I’m still thinking about them. I also had an overwhelming urge to talk to people about the book. For me this is what makes the experience of reading magical—the jolt of recognition as the author describes feelings you’ve had but couldn’t articulate, the need to pause and appreciate a finely crafted sentence, fully realized characters, and a feeling of urgency for contemplation and conversation.
The book’s cast of characters comes alive through the omniscient viewpoint of the author, and it will appeal to those who like character-driven books. Nina, a young woman who gave up her career as an attorney to be a stay-at home mom, feels trapped and frustrated. Her husband, also an attorney, works all the time (or is he really working?) and she spends her lonely evenings spying on her neighbors with her son’s toy binoculars, especially one middle-aged seemingly content couple who spend quiet hours together reading on their sofa. Little does she know that her life will soon become entangled with theirs, as well as their adult daughter’s, in irreversible ways. The other characters are equally interesting and the story unfolds with humor, insight, and pathos.
Tova Mirvis is a wise woman. She understands the complexity and ambiguity of the human heart and she knows how to craft a compelling story about identity, perception, longing, disappointment and human connection.