A sensitive but too understated portrayal of widowhood as experienced by a “young or youngish woman”—and, in a way, the building she inhabits.
Celia is in her late 30s and, as former Playboy literary editor Loyd writes, not quite sure of herself in the world. Fortunately, her late husband prepared her for a time without him and, more important, left her with sufficient funds that she could buy a modest apartment building in Brooklyn and rent out three spaces. Being a property owner and landlord offers Celia an opportunity to channel her energies into bringing a badly mistreated building back to life, godlike: “What I could not restore, I replicated; what I could not replicate, I left simple but clean.” Life, of course, is not so easily controlled, nor are the titular “affairs of others.” Woven into the story are other deaths, as well as the brooding fact of 9/11 and the “varieties and degrees of trauma felt...even in the sidewalks.” Yet this is no Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, nothing eccentric or, sad to say, particularly memorable. Like a neat apartment, Loyd’s story hasn’t an element out of place; she writes expertly, without wasted words. Yet the affect is curiously flat: Celia is matter-of-fact and, it seems, scarcely involved in the heart of her own story; only the supporting players seem to feel much of anything, including, in a nicely written turn, anguish over the plight of the polar bears. As a result, the feel of the book overall is more memoir than novel and even then, a memoir that is merely reporting the facts.
More emotional investment would have given this story, competent though it is, more life.