Silber’s acutely observed fourth (In My Other Life, 2000, etc.) follows the trail of emotions left behind an HIV diagnosis as it touches the lives of one New York City couple.
Gabe and Elisa have something of a May-September romance: she's a painter in her early 20s, he's 15 years her senior. They meet where Gabe works, the Eagle Eye Camera shop, and quickly fall in love. Gabe, a gentle, introverted man who spends much of his spare time reading and listening to music, contrasts with Elisa, an attractive extrovert with a need for stability. Both have drugs in their pasts: Gabe once did well for himself as a dealer, until landing a brief prison term that cured him of his appetite for adventure. For Elisa, it was the bliss of drugs that had marked her life with Jason, a beautiful risk-taker who abused her off and on. As the two now undergo preliminary blood tests prior to their wedding, Elisa’s test returns HIV positive, and though Gabe commits to a careful, unmarried life of safe sex and moderation with her, Elisa’s appetite for raw stimulation leads her back to Jason, with whom sex is the aggressive pleasure it once was. Elisa feels beautiful again. She moves in with Jason, but when she falls seriously ill and he tires of her, she takes a couch in a friend’s apartment. Eventually, she is reunited with Gabe, and after he and she attend the wedding of two AIDS patients in a hospital, the story closes on a gently hopeful but indeterminate note.
Refreshingly unsentimental: Silber writes with a modest intimacy that brings her characters to heartbreaking clarity even as she remains true to the ambiguities that plague every life—and love.