The superintendent of an 11-story apartment building in Chicago falls from the roof, remembering stories of the tenants on his way down.
As a teenage trumpet prodigy, Roscoe lost a finger in the gate of his apartment building’s elevator. His trumpet dream shattered, he became superintendent of that same building, where he’s lived all his life. Now living in a Spartan basement apartment, he sees to the needs of the building’s tenants. But Roscoe never gave up on the trumpet, and on a fateful autumn evening, he ascends to the roof of the building to play his trumpet for all the world to hear. The people down on the sidewalk are entranced. Roscoe finishes and modestly bows—but loses his balance and begins his fatal plunge. Then the frame story launches: Time slows as Roscoe descends 11 floors, remembering a story about someone who lived on each floor he passes. Sylvia Freeman, a hoarder, lived on 10. On seven lived exiled Joaquin Rojas, whose Cuban friend sent him books stolen from Castro’s library. David and Bill, the gay couple who lived on the sixth floor, split up over a stupid misunderstanding. Mrs. Delpy lived on five, where her psychotic son Martin crawled out on the ledge, followed by Roscoe. Finally, on the second floor lived Roscoe’s only lifelong love, Iris Montgomery, with their illicit love consummated just once. Cander’s book isn’t quite Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919), though. Some stories, like the perennially clogged toilet on eight, are playful anecdotes. Yet many of the tenants show heartbreaking spiritual damage; some of them are admirable, some not so much. Quiet, diffident Roscoe, who’s spent half a century supporting them all in one way or another, just as admirably supports these stories.
A wonderfully clever compilation.