New York, though, has a way of surprising people, and Sanchez’s story turns Frank’s assumptions about crime and changing neighborhoods on their head as soon as he hits Coney Island. The new immigrant and ethnic populations he encounters are just people, living their lives. When a young man makes a crack about his suit—“Damn old man, you on your way to church or something?”—Frank’s wise-guy response inspires incredulity rather than violence: “Nah, I went to see your mother. She wants me to look nice for her.” The implication is clear: the city revitalizes something in Frank, so much so that when he does face a deadly situation he endeavors to rescue a friend rather than seize the chance to end it all.
That friend, Carlo Sanguinetti, encounters Frank by seeming happenstance, and then the two pass time together in amusing misadventures, as they discuss their pasts, the changing city, belief in God, and Frank’s guilt over not always having been the husband that his wife, Bianca, deserved. The talk is charming, alternately funny, and wise. Though the novel is low-key in its everyday humanity, Sanchez springs a jolting but unlikely late twist, connecting Frank’s presence to the tragedy from which he’s recovering.
Takeaway: New York revitalizes a widower in this tender, conversational novel.
Comparable Titles: Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Jacob M. Appel’s Millard Salter’s Last Day.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-