Heroic Measures: A Novel by Jill Ciment is a little gem of a book. It’s hard to believe that a scant 208 pages can create the huge range of emotions that this book does, but it’s all there – love, crime, suspense, and, yes, real estate. Definitely a great choice for the busy reader!
The plot is brief as the book – a couple approaching old age realize that they will not be able to negotiate the five flights of stairs to their walk-up apartment in Manhattan much longer. They must sell the home they’ve inhabited all their married life and find something with an elevator.
On this thin premise Ciment hangs a slice of life that is an inch wide and a mile deep. We feel the couple’s regret, as well as their anticipation of making a killing on the real estate they purchased soon after World War II. That their dear little dog becomes ill and a suspected terrorist blocks the Midtown tunnel provides the backdrop to explore a wide range of themes and emotion. I read the whole book in a night, unable to stop till it was over.
As a lifelong suburbanite, it might seem that the attraction of life in the East Village would be hard to grasp and, in some ways, it was. But home is home, and the older I get the more I appreciate how difficult it is to say goodbye to the place that has nurtured your marriage, sheltered your children, and been the place you come to when you can’t stand to be anywhere else. I laughed and cried with the Cohens, as much for their own dilemma as the one that I know I must surely face myself one day.