4 out of 4 stars
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Patrick Finegan, the author of Cooperative Lives, describes his novel as "the world's most contemporary historical novel." He believes that the events he describes could no longer happen since 2013 in New York.
Finegan describes the lives of the residents of a Midtown Manhattan cooperative. It is a desirable place to live and has captivating people living there. We gain an in-depth understanding of several of the families: Wallace is black, a computer hack and married to Hanni, who is more than she seems. Wallace and Hanni have a daughter Alya who succumbs to leukemia. Hanni blames herself; Jack and Susan have a daughter Melissa who skates at the famous Central Park skating rink. Jack, a lawyer, has suffered a string of jobs with impressive large companies that all folded. Susan is Jack's dominant partner, who uses a wheelchair. She is 17 years Jack's junior; also Sheldon Vogel who gallantly saves Susan's life by pushing her wheelchair out of the way of a bus. Unfortunately, he gets himself side-swiped at the same time.
Finegan's writing moves us quickly backward and forward in time to fill in the seedy to exotic backgrounds of residents of the cooperative. One of them, Mrs. Pfouts, is very rich, and Sheldon gets involved in managing her money. He thought that was a godsend, but it turned out to be a nightmare. Jack gets involved with Sheldon because he saves his wife's life. Hanni seems to have many relationships to buy influence and also a connection with Susan that seems rather sordid.
I'm unsure why the author thinks that the things he describes could not happen now, six years later. I don't think the world has become more moral since then. There are still people with money and those without who depend on each other. The CIA and FBI are no doubt incompetent as often as they are competent. Neighbors who do not look at each other in the elevator may still meet and get involved in the vicinity.
The two little girls in the story had an appealing innocence, and Alya's ordeal made me sad. Her desire to be there for her parents was poignant. There were additionally twists and turns in the story and fascinating coincidences, always leading back to the residents. The cross-section of people that you would expect to find in New York seemed quite valid. From a Fox News reporter to CIA and FBI agents, CEO's, doctors and hospitals also teeming with intrigue and face-saving ploys.
I do agree that Cooperative Lives is a slice of history, and people's lives are always of interest. It may well gain even more notoriety with time. For its potential to become more historically critical, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. I do not rate it 3 out of 4 stars because it is fast-paced and reflects well-developed characters. I detect no errors and believe it to be professionally edited. I recommend it to people who either live a cosmopolitan life or wish they could. The prospect may seem undesirable after reading it. The story has profanity and explicit sexual scenes which may not be the choice of some readers.
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