A half-dozen fathers in the fashionable environs of Tribeca circa 2008 struggle with regret, ambition, family and secrets on their way to the playground.
They’re a not-so-diverse group, the guys who populate the first novel by memoirist/journalist Greenfeld (Boy Alone, 2009, etc.). Thrown together by geography, a group of dads commiserate over breakfast, survey their peers for advice and bicker like little old ladies much of the time. They’re so universal, in fact, that each chapter identifies each man not by name, but by address. 113 North Moore is the Asian-American sound mixologist who studies his daughters like they’re a foreign species. 65 Hudson is the secretive husband who’s having an affair with another member’s wife. 47 Lispenard is the artist whose “punk puppetry” is now old hat in fast-moving Tribeca. “The hurt was three-fold: the art, the money, the girl,” he muses. 57 Warren Street is really the only anomaly in the interconnected stories, starring Rankin, a Jewish gangster who finds his comrades tiresome but serves a vital purpose in their lives. “For most of the men, Rankin also served as the living embodiment of warning,” Greenfeld writes. “Of whom you never want to turn to. Of a desperation you hope you will never feel.” While the stories are well-composed, the novel is often disjointed, and some characters are so bland as to be nearly unnoticeable—the film producer who frets about neighborhood pedophiles, the playwright whose success the others find unfathomable. And others are oh-so-naughties, as is the case with the story of 85 West Broadway, the memoirist with an autistic son whose flashy stories about Japan and his own drug addiction turn out to be fabrications. It’s pretty evident that Greenfeld is mining his life experiences for fiction, but that doesn’t give them the ring of truth. It could be challenging for readers to drum up sympathy for wealthy young men with rich world problems.
A soapy portrait of pre-economic-crisis Manhattan.