In this debut, a civil engineer wakes from the drudgery of middle age with the help of a blind homeless man.
Forty-eight-year-old Curtis Feder is a civil engineer for Vortech in Chicago. While attending the company’s anniversary party with his wife, Louise, and his daughter, Lilly, he encounters his grandfather’s ghost. The ghost tells Curtis a hard truth: “You don’t even care if you live or die....Your sin is contempt, contempt for your own existence.” He then sees two Deaths, wearing red tuxes, approaching. Curtis flees the party and his family, ending up outside near the Tribune Tower. When a blind man asks for help crossing the street, the engineer finds himself in the network of streets beneath Chicago’s busy downtown. Originally from Uruguay, Diego quotes philosophers like Schopenhauer and has been “dreaming a new city,” so he is happy to talk with the engineer. Curtis, meanwhile, confesses his dismal, routine life to his new friend, including the fact that he’s emotionally distanced from his family. Also, he’s sure that his bosses are stealing “money and materials” from Vortech. In this thoughtful, ribald debut, author Aramburu draws an alluring world that blurs the line between fantasy and reality. The author turns urban decay into poetic asides like “the canyon of factories and abandoned buildings flashed on and off the surface of the water like a moving impressionistic painting.” Diego, though he often rambles, delivers bits of wisdom: “traveling is both an interruption and a connection; as we move along our path to reach our destination, our way of being is different.” Readers may recognize some Thomas Pynchon–style camp—in the comely shape of restaurateur Geraldine—that’s both intellectually and sexually liberating. Whether Diego’s City of Philosophy exists is secondary to Curtis’ rediscovering the pulse of his own life and hopefully convincing his daughter that he’s a new man.
A verbose romp that will win readers over with warm, unpredictable moments.