FISHBOWL by Bradley Somer


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Linked perspectives connect the quirky residents of an apartment building in Somer’s second novel (Imperfections, 2012).

Though it appears unremarkable from the outside, the Seville on Roxy—a “Multi-Residential, High-Density High-Rise”—is teeming with life. And as a goldfish named Ian plunges from a fishbowl on a 27th-floor balcony toward the pavement, he registers brief glimpses of the lives occurring within, which Somer fleshes into vivid, interwoven strands. There’s Katie, a sensitive college student visiting the Seville to find out if her boyfriend loves her; meanwhile, Connor Radley, said boyfriend, clears his apartment of guilty debris (and the woman in his bed). A landlord named Jiminez attempts to fix the building’s broken elevator, forcing everyone to take the stairs—including social outcast Herman and Garth, a burly construction worker clutching a secret package. On the eighth floor, the heavily pregnant Petunia Delilah goes into labor alone while, several apartments over, Claire the shut-in loses her job at a phone-sex line. As their perspectives cycle through, the residents’ lives collide in unexpected ways. As she climbs the stairs, Katie passes Connor’s lover wearing her own nightshirt, forcing her to “stay amid her delusions in the stairwell” or confront her clearly unfaithful boyfriend. Petunia knocks on nearby doors for help, and Garth unwraps the package and changes into his beautiful dress, unaware that an unanticipated visitor may soon discover his secret. As the action in the Seville mounts, confrontations play out, lives hang in the balance, and identities are exposed. Somer has created well-developed characters and effectively transports the reader into their three-dimensional worlds; there are also genuinely touching moments, as when Claire and Herman attempt to deliver Petunia’s baby with the help of an emergency response worker. Somer stitches things together a bit too neatly, however. From Ian’s eventual salvation to Claire’s link to the emergency response worker, these coincidences detract from the story’s believability; nonetheless, the plot’s center of human kindness mostly makes up the difference.

Touching and well-written.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4668-6170-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2015