BETWEEN TWO RIVERS
by Nicholas Rinaldi
Rinaldi (The Jukebox Queen of Malta, 1999, etc.) takes a familiar narrative model–the interlocking lives of residents in a Manhattan apartment building–and gives it some bright new plumage.
Farro Fescu is the proud and observant concierge of Echo Terrace, a condominium in New York City. Passing through his lobby at all hours of the night and day is an exotic cross-section of the world’s population: an Egyptian-born plastic surgeon who lives on the fifth floor and specializes in gender reassignment; a fighter pilot, on the eighth floor, who flew for Nazi Germany during World War II; an Iraqi spice merchant and the world-famous crazy-patch quilter with whom he’s having an affair; the adulterer’s son, dreaming of becoming an undertaker; and the widow whose apartment is a jungle Eden filled with a menagerie of specimens — finches, canaries, a defanged cobra, a monkey named Joe — that had been the subject of her dead husband’s research.
Farro Fescu knows them all, knows all their secrets. He knows what happened to Yesenia Rivera, the nineteen-year-old staff housekeeper from Queens, when she took a fateful ride one evening on the Staten Island Ferry. He alone knows the truth behind the mysterious mishap that befell the fashion designer Ira Klempp, a resident of the twelfth floor. And he knows — and would like to know much more — about the alluring Mar#237;a Gracia Mo#241;o, sometime lover of Harry Falcon, the brilliant captain of industry who lives in the penthouse and is dying of cancer.
He is keenly attuned to the building and the people in it, yet he does not know what is in his own heart — why, after a long, hard life, he is still alive, and still alone. Nor does he know what he will be capable of in the face of sudden, overwhelming tragedy.
As the narrative eye of Between Two Rivers floats from one apartment to another, revealing the characters’ private histories and tracing the dramatic intersections of their daily lives, a lush tapestry of experience emerges. The story, in beautifully textured prose, is laced with wit and humor, subtle ironies and haunting echoes, and everywhere a profound sense of the resilience of the human spirit.
Called a “warmhearted celebration of New Yorkers and their restless curiosity. ”