Life in TriBeCa in the late summer and early fall of 2001 seems precarious to Corrine and Russell Calloway, whose marriage may be on the skids.

Corrine has returned to her career, while still juggling motherhood and other commitments; Russell seems detached and distant, arousing all of the suspicions that have accompanied the two of them since their separation a few years previously.

“When she had yearned to be a mother, imagining what it would be like to be a parent, it had been easy to conjure the joy…the scenes of tenderness, the Pieta moments. What you don’t picture are the guilt and the fear that take up residence at the front of your brain, like evil twins you didn’t bargain for. Fear, because you’re always worried about what might go wrong, especially if your kids were born, as hers were, three months early.”

In the opening pages of The Good Life, we sense who these characters are, with their privileged lifestyle that should make them the objects of envy. However, we can also see the fraying seams of their existence.

Suddenly and totally out of the blue, their worlds are shattered by the events a few days later. The 9/11 events that turned a city into a shocking inferno, and the rest of the world into a frightening place to live.

In the aftermath, Corrinne happens upon a man near Ground Zero.

“Staggering up West Broadway, coated head to foot in dun ash, he looked like a statue commemorating some ancient victory, or, more likely, some noble defeat–a Confederate general, perhaps. That was her second impression….”

And she thus meets Luke McGavock, a man who will become a central part of her life in the weeks ahead. His life, too, is unraveling.

In these moments when the two of them connect, the tragic events seemingly open them to new possibilities. A little while later, they become connected further when they volunteer at a kind of soup kitchen for the rescue workers.

What will next happen between them? Will their common goals lead to something more? Will they reach out for the comfort of each other to assuage the ills of their marriages? Or will the baggage of their lives prevent a fresh start?

The author’s prose captured my attention and kept me turning pages. I soon came to care about Corrinne and Luke, and less so about their spouses, Russell and Sasha.

I wanted the journey to continue, with everyone learning valuable lessons from what had happened. But in the end, would the old habits and expectations cling to them all like the ash from the inferno? Would only a residual of the experience remain to remind them of what could have been? A story that seemed to promise much, but didn’t quite deliver what I hoped for. Four stars.

4 thoughts on “AFTER THE FALL — A REVIEW

  1. swright9

    I recall reading this one a couple of years ago and I too didn’t find it a fulfilling story either, though I had high hopes for Jay McInerney’s 9/11 attempt. Perhaps the best fictional account Ive read on 9/11 is The Submission by Amy Waldman, which I liked see cheers! have a good week


  2. booksnyc

    I was in NYC on 9/11 and thus far have not brought myself to read any of the fiction set at that time. But I do have Good Life on my shelf – would you recommend? I have also heard great things about Submission


    1. I did enjoy it, and except for the feeling that something wasn’t quite satisfying at the end of it, I think it was a pretty good read.

      Thanks for stopping by, Colleen. But I’ll bet it’s almost impossible to read something like this if you were there during 9/11. I’ve heard that Submission is better, so I might check that one out.


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