Top positive review
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A GRAND BOOK OF HEROIC PROPORTIONS
on September 20, 2009
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. They are hoping to get enough money for their condo so that buying a new condo will be an even trade.
Ciment writes with a languishing loveliness and a straight-forward dialogue. In a book of less than 200 pages, she develops characters so that the reader feels like she knows them deeply and well. I refer not just to the human characters, but to Dorothy as well. Ciment is an artist who uses few words to evoke deep wells. She is an expert in conveying myriad emotions and establishing empathy for her characters despite their foibles.
This book is a must-read. It is remarkable in so many ways - - the narrative, the characterizations, the emotive quality and sensibility,and the empathic quality of the writing. I consider it one of the best books that I have read this year.