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by Cari Luna

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-935639-64-0
Publisher: Tin House

Luna’s debut novel, about the lives of homesteaders who occupy abandoned tenements in New York’s Lower East Side, is an unvarnished glimpse into a fringe sector of society during the latter part of the 20th century.

The occupants of Thirteen House are NYC’s invisible people, imperfect and damaged, who nevertheless strive to maintain the community and families they’ve created. Philandering husband Steve, who opened the building in the 1980s, professes to love his wife, Anne, and wants to protect her; but Anne becomes increasingly distant and resentful. The product of a middle-class upbringing, she’s suffered four miscarriages and has nothing to show for her years of marriage, especially when she compares her life with her sister’s. Dutch-born Gerrit, a veteran homesteader and Steve’s best friend, is ashamed of his physical deficiencies and past decisions; but he’s consumed with love for young Amelia, the former junkie/runaway whom he rescued from the streets seven years ago. Amelia’s now pregnant—though not with Gerrit’s child—and she’s worried about her future and the looming decisions she must make. Steve’s first love, Cat, lives in neighboring Cat House, which is named for her. Cat’s a legend among the squatters due to her association with certain celebrities when she was young and beautiful. Now she prefers a more insular life with her menagerie of cats, and she and Amelia develop an unlikely rapport. With other members of their squatter family, the five make ends meet with mainstream day jobs, but evenings find them Dumpster diving and salvaging materials to feed themselves and repair their buildings. However, the city’s plan to evict them forces the squatters into action: They set up an eviction watch and enlist a lawyer to argue their case. As their convictions become embroiled with their crumbling private lives, they are swept into actions that determine their fates. Luna creates an array of complex characters caught up in emotions, relationships and situations far from the ordinary as they examine their commitments to their merged family and explore their own ideals and expectations.

Enlightening and marked by inventive subject matter, intense reflection and stark eloquence.