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Heroic Measures: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 30, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ciment's spare and surprisingly gripping novel details one long weekend in the life of Ruth and Alex Cohen, an elderly New York couple hoping to sell their East Village apartment of 45 years. Ruth is a retired teacher and Chekhov devotee, and Alex is an artist, currently adding colorful illuminations to the couples' old FBI files. As they ready for an open house, a gas tanker truck gets stuck in the Midtown tunnel, seizing the city with gridlock and fear of a terrorist attack. (In scenes that border on parody, the local news adopts a Danger in the Tunnel graphic and runs viewer polls about whether terrorists take drugs.) Meanwhile, the Cohens' beloved dachshund, Dorothy, falls ill and has to be taken to an uptown animal hospital. As the real estate market swings in response to the news about the tanker, the Cohens wait for news about their dog and confront the reality of leaving their home. Ciment plays the veterinary, real estate and domestic details like elements of a thriller plot, while the couple's love of their dog provides heartrending texture—literature with commercial crossover. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A brave, generous, nearly perfect novel. . .”

Los Angeles Times

“A testament to Ciment’s lauded writing style. . . Heroic Measures will delight eager fans awaiting Ciment’s next work.”

The Daily Beast

“It all sounds so ordinary–dogs get sick; people want to move–yet in Ms. Ciment’s delicate hands, these characters become heroic in their small ways.”

Wall Street Journal (one of WSJ’s summer reading picks)

“A wry, gentle gem of a novel. . . a lovely read.”

Christian Science Monitor

"Read Jill Ciment’s Heroic Measures for its painterly depictions of a rattled city, its deliciously biting satire of media and real estate madness, its tender knowledge of the creaturely ties that bind."
O Magazine

“Gripping. . . Ciment plays the veterinary, real estate and domestic details like elements of a thriller plot, while the couple’s love for their dog provides heartrending texture—literature with a commercial cross over.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)

Praise for Jill Ciment's THE TATTOO ARTIST

The Tattoo Artist was a fever dream from which I did not wish to wake. This is a beautifully written novel. Ciment transported me to another world where both art and dignity matter. Fantastic!”
–Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones

“Ciment’s new novel, like her previous books, is beautifully written and reaches even beyond them as a stunning work of the imagination. I read The Tattoo Artist on one long plane ride, totally immersed and fascinated.”
–Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States

“Elegant, powerful and, ultimately, tragic… Stunning.”

“A highly original suspense novel… A heart-seizing narrative…Breathtaking–not a word is out of place.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“An ingenious and provocative image… Rich and strange.”
Los Angeles Times

“Eerily beautiful.”
O, The Oprah Magazine

“Start to finish, The Tattoo Artist is rich in Ciment’s trademark wit, intelligence, and gorgeous prose. I shall not soon forget this story.”
–Lynn Freed, author of The Curse of the Appropriate Man


This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (June 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375425225
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375425226
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #556,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jill Ciment was born in Montreal, Canada. She is the author of Small Claims, a collection of short stories and novellas; The Law of Falling Bodies, Teeth of the Dog, The Tattoo Artist, and Heroic Measures, novels; and Half a Life, a memoir. Heroic Measures is the basis for the film 5 Flights Up starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts, a NEA Japan Fellowship Prize, two New York State Fellowships for the Arts, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Ciment is a professor at the University of Florida. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Are you a dog lover? Read this book.

It is the story of an elderly couple in New York City. Alex and Ruth have been married for 45 years. He's a painter with studio in their apartment. She's a retired schoolteacher. They bought their apartment forty years ago for 5 thousand dollars. They are growing weary of walking up the five flights of stairs. A realtor thinks they can sell their place for a million dollars. That is ONE MILLION bucks.

They are so excited and nervous as they prepare for an open house to show their place to buyers that they fail to notice that the center of their universe, a 12-year-old dachshund named Dorothy is in some pain and distress. When they do realize that Dorothy is hurt they scramble to take her in for medical care. This childless couple will do anything for that little dog. She returns their love and trusts them completely to care for her.

This is the story of that weekend. It's a touching and tender story about the love that bonds we humans and our beloved animal friends.

Touching stuff to make you feel good about life and about those hounds that add so much to our lives. Enjoy!
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Format: Hardcover
I absolutely adored this book. Finished it a week ago and STILL cannot get it out of my thoughts.
Are you a lover of dogs? Read this book!
Are you a lover of great writers? Read this book!
Just read this book...you won't be sorry!
Wonderful author..first time reading a book of hers...am on the way to reading all she has written.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Heroic Measures is a little gem, one of those rare books that you pick up and can't put down, while at the same time you wish it would never end. It is about a couple, Alex and Ruth, and their dachshund Dorothy. One weekend morning Dorothy is not acting herself and shortly afterwards she can not walk. Alex and Ruth rush to the emergency after hours veterinary hospital where they find out that she most likely has a disc problem and will require surgery. Alex and Ruth are a childless couple and Dorothy is like a child to them. At times, couples that treat dogs like children can seem corny, but in the hands of an author like Ciment, we empathize with Alex and Ruth and grow to love Dorothy as if she were our own.

At the same time that Dorothy is hospitalized, Alex and Ruth are in the process of selling their 5 floor walk-up condominium. Alex is 78 years old and Ruth is 74. They would like to use the money from the sale of their condo to buy a condo with an elevator. They are getting on in years and are feeling the difficulty of walking five flights of stairs every time they come or go.

Also occurring at this time is a crisis in Manhattan. An Exxon truck has jack-knifed in the Midtown Tunnel and the driver has left the scene. There are questions as to whether he is a terrorist. He has kidnapped a taxi driver and stuffed him in the trunk of the taxi. Traffic in Manhattan is at a stand-still, cabs have been called off the streets, and Alex and Ruth are having trouble getting to the animal hospital to visit Dorothy. They are also looking at condos to buy and find one that they love. However, they are not sure how the current crisis with the suspected terrorist is effecting housing bids.
Read more ›
16 Comments 7 of 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an elegantly-written, slice-of-life novel that focuses on a fraught 48-hour period in New York City. A reported terrorist has just rammed his gasoline tank into the Midtown Tunnel, the populace is holding its breath, and yet an elderly couple, Alex and Ruth, have bigger concerns: their 12-year-old dachshund, Dorothy -- the child they never had -- is suddenly paralyzed and needs immediate emergency surgery. And, to make things more frenetic, they are attempting to sell their walk-up and buy a dream apartment.

There is not one false note in this moving and authentically-told book. Anyone who loves dogs will totally relate to the lengths Alex and Ruth go to save their "fur-baby". (My Maltese, Reggie, has passed his 17th birthday, and more than once, I sighed and nodded in recognition). In some ways, Dorothy is a symbol of New York itself -- tenacious in her hold on life and willing to weather any storm to fight on.

Yet this book is laced with humor. Those who have had it up to here with T.V. pundits and well-groomed news anchors who haven't a clue will LOVE the constant drivel that passes for news these days. Comment such as, "A poll suggests that most New Yorkers think that terrorists take drugs" or "Over 50 percent say they would not give themselves up based on their mother's pleas" is dead-on in its accuracy.

All in all, this book is really about resiliency and miracles. Will Dorothy make it home? (And yes, there are some parallels with the Wizard of Oz...the traveler in a strange land). Will Alex and Ruth get their dream apartment in the midst of a bidding war? Will New York itself survive unscathed? This book will wean its way into your heart and stay there long after you close the last page.
30 Comments 6 of 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
For forty-five years retired teacher Ruth and artist Alex Cohen have lived in their East Village co-op, but now the elderly couple finds the five flights unbearable and their cherished Dorothy the Dachshund can no longer move her back feet making it that much more difficult for them. Thus they plan to sell the apartment hoping for a million dollars and find a more convenient abode somewhere closer to the ocean perhaps as far south as the Carolinas.

As they wait to host an open house, Alex has been adding illustrations to "ancient history FBI files of Ruth. However, the police begin an evacuation when a driver Abdul Pamir loses control of a gas tanker blocking the Midtown tunnel. Residents begin panicking that another 9/11 is happening and the media adds to the fears with the "Danger in the Tunnel" reporting that imply terrorists since the driver is named Abdul. While all this is going down (should say "up"-town) Dorothy becomes ill and needs to see a veterinarian and their realtor says terrorists like Abdul who became frightened of mobs, police, and reporters assaulting him takes hostages, which makes the Cohen pad worth a lot less.

HEROIC MEASURES is a super look at an edgy America in which the media and the politicians play up the 9/11 card at any time, which leads to more nervousness as if the country has turned into a collective neurotic perhaps even psychotic mess. The story line reads like a Manhattan thriller in which any moment the Midtown Tunnel will explode and Abdul will kill his hostages yet does so with a profound focus on the three subplots of New York real estate, an aging couple struggling with an ailing canine, and the media-politician marriage of convenience to hyperbolize the truth. Jill Ciment has written a great "domestic" thriller.

Harriet Klausner
5 Comments 7 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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