3 out of 4 stars
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The lives of a group of neighbors in a high-end, high-rise building in New York City constitute the center of the plot of Cooperative Lives, written by Patrick Finegan. George Wallace (Wally) and Hannah (Hanni) are a divorced couple that split-up after the tragic loss of their daughter Alya. Their lives get intertwined with the Roberts: Jack, Susan, and Melissa are husband, his much younger second wife, and daughter. Nothing is quite what it seems in this surprising novel that involves loss, espionage, embezzlement, and betrayal.
Hanni is the focal point of the book, and the other characters have links to her in one way or another. Originally from Turkey, her actual name is Hanife – a multilayered, mysterious woman of Kurdish origin. Having been exposed to toxins in her home town, she blames herself for Alya's leukemia. Mildred is also a captivating, strong female character whom I enjoyed. The author masterfully portrays this witty eighty-year-old writer who plays an essential part in the end. But I won't give away any spoilers!
New York City is much more than a setting in this story. The author cleverly weaves numerous well-constructed and subtle references to the city in the plot. New York’s history, geography, distinctive features, and inhabitants’ lifestyles are all part of the narrative. I appreciated these characterizations. For instance, Wally is “conditioned like every New Yorker to look down in the elevator, to not meet a stranger’s gaze in the subway, to avoid eye contact unless absolutely necessary.”
I was positively impressed with the author’s writing style. The portrayal of Alya’s suffering and death is just devastating. The author conveys the parent’s despair and helplessness with the little girl’s terrible disease in a dramatic, intense, and almost poetic way. Alya’s agony nearly brought me to tears. Moreover, the way the author pieced together an initially fragmented plot kept me hooked. It felt like solving a puzzle.
In closing, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. It is fairly well-edited. Most of the errors I noticed were minor punctuation issues that do not detract from the reading experience. I am taking a star away because I felt that the author overused vulgar language and profanity. In my opinion, the book would be better without this. Adult readers who enjoy realistic drama with plot twists will enjoy this book; those who are put off by foul language might not like it. I don’t think the book is appropriate for teenagers.
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