THE LAST ROOM IN MANHATTAN by Kathleen Rockwell Lawrence


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From the author of Maud Gone (1986): a fine, funny, and moving story about a young woman searching for direction, meaning, an apartment, and love in a dead-on depiction of the contemporary urban landscape. Bright, hip, but unambitious Karen Carmody, 33, briefly working as a headhunter at Exec-Career, loses her sub-sublet when the road show of A Chorus Line closes in Johannesburg and Lisa the actress returns to New York. She soon loses her job as well, and the novel's engine kicks in. Living off diminishing funds from the cash machine and a bit of credit left on VISA, Karen moves into the Arcadia, a rooming house for women. Her single there becomes a double when Martha arrives from Ohio, in search of her missing son, instead of him, she finds teen runaway Jimmy at Port Authority. Martha sneaks Jimmy into the Arcadia and hides him there, planning a future for the two of them. Meanwhile, assaulted on all sides by homelessness, trying to distance herself and avoid involvement, Karen finds herself tested, in a position to help. Encouraged by Mark, an eccentric stockbroker with whom she dances the feinting steps of modern courtship, Karen acts, and the author gives us an as-happy-as-can-be-expected ending. Karen is the sort of marginal character Tama Janowitz writes about, but Lawrence handles the material more honestly, less superficially, without the romantic sheen Janowitz creates. Lawrence occasionally draws attention to herself with precious phrasings, and the one broad stroke of satire (Karen's mom' moves to a New Age retirement home) is out of place--but Karen is immensely likable, and her life altogether real.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1988
Publisher: Atheneum