Unseen City, Amy Shearn, Red Hen Press, 2020, 266 pp
This will be my last review for 2020. I had two more I wanted to post but life got in the way. Next up will be my Top Favorite Reads, my Books Read in December, etc.
The September, 2020 pick of the Nervous Breakdown Book Club was published by an Indie press from my very own city!
I loved Unseen City from the first sentence to the last. Meg Rhys, the main character, is a 40 year old woman who self-identifies as a spinster librarian. She likes men and sex but does not want a husband or to be a wife. All her heroes had resisted wifehood from Jane Austen to Emily Dickinson.
Meg lost her younger sister to a hit and run on the streets of New York but that sister visits her as a ghost in the evenings after work. Besides her cat and books, her passion is contained in the shelves of the Brooklyn Collection, on the second floor of the Brooklyn Central Library where she works; where she has amassed a wealth of understanding about Brooklyn from its 18th century farmlands to it gentrification in the 21st.
However, a man does finally penetrate her spinsterhood. Ellis turns up at the Brooklyn Collection needing a history of the ancient Brooklyn house his family hopes to renovate and sell. This house has a ghost also! Her name is Iris, her story lurks beneath Meg's story and like magic the author ties them together.
Everything I love about novels is encapsulated in Unseen City. The rhythms of the prose, the believability of every character, the layers of history, the accuracy of its present time scenes.
I feel like I will from now on be aware that my house, my property, my town within my city, has all those layers of history beneath it. I think a smart combination of agent, publisher, editor and marketer could have made this novel a bestseller, but that did not happen. So now it is up to readers who tell other readers: READ THIS!!
Thanks to Red Hen Press for putting the book into the world and to TNB for putting it in my hands.