Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review: "The Tenants of Moonbloom" by Edward Lewis Wallant

The Tenants of Moonbloom is a joyous wail of a novel that might not cut it with a lot of readers. On the one hand it is smart, thoughtful and very well-written, but it paints, in broad strokes a cast of overly romantic characters in a very saccharine light, focusing almost always on the positive and not the negative. Despite its setting, a dilapidated tenement building, this is very much a novel of the 1960’s but not one about the 1960’s. Some people will like this novel, and some people won’t, I really felt entranced by certain parts of it, but felt very left out during others. After finishing a book that was too long, this one might have benefited from a few extra pages. It tries to stuff a ton of characters into a book that is less than 300 pages, so some of the most interesting aspects of this novel do not get the attention I felt they deserved. The Moonbloom of the title is Norman, a sad sack in his early thirties with no job, no romantic prospects and no direction. He is hired by his brother Irwin, to be the rent collector for a few of his apartment buildings in New York. At first Norman is quite reticent to the idea of helping out the people he comes across. From getting roped into family squabbles to being belittled for the many problems in the rooms. But as he gets to know these people, their hopes and their dreams, he comes to see himself as their protector and finds a purpose for his life. Some of the descriptions are brilliant, describing Norman’s lack of humor as well as descriptions of the apartments that are breathtaking. But as I said the book has too many characters, and it is hard to keep track of all of them since some aren’t too distinct, and it hurts the book some when someone dies, and I was left confused instead of heartbroken. But it makes up for it with a soaring ending, where a simple repair becomes something transcendent. Check this one out, you won’t be disappointed.  
Rating: 4/5

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