Pedersen’s memoir dives into the early days of 2020’s coronavirus pandemic, when the unthinkable quickly became the new standard. Pedersen, a former New York Times business columnist and author of Buffalo Gal
and Life in New York
, guides readers through the year that everything stopped, from rumors spreading of an invisible disease to the start of the global lockdown and beyond. She paints a portrait of Manhattan in a slow-moving tragedy, capturing the confusion of the “pause” order that preceded the shutdowns, the increasing strangeness of familiar surroundings—“Instead of lost scrunchies and balled tissues, [Central Park’s] bridle path was littered with latex gloves and face masks”— and horrors like hospitals parking gurneys in chapels and gift shops.
Pedersen also tries to illuminate cause for hope. Capturing the era’s small moments, such as operas belted off apartment balconies and the worldwide BLM protests for George Floyd, she emphasizes our need to work together to survive possible extinction. She sums up a world gone haywire with enticing depth and wry humor, reminding readers of the “feral swine bomb” that hit the news just before election day, and relishing the marvelously obscene handwritten sign a liquor store posted establishing new rules for its customers.
Pedersen continually likens living in New York during 2020 to being a frightened kid caught between a “Guv Dad” (Cuomo) and “Mayor Mom” (de Blasio) who continuously argue about how to handle the crisis. Such sharp humor might strike some readers as insensitive, but those on her wavelength will relish it. When her 83 year old mother, a former nurse, gets called out of retirement, Pedersen cracks “What did they want her to do exactly? I suggested she could be in charge of helping with crossword puzzle clues.” Pedersen offers readers–especially those locked down in the Big Apple–and the future a clear-eyed, cathartic recap of a devastating time.
Takeaway: An illuminating and darkly humorous look at Manhattan life during the pandemic.
Great For Fans Of: An Sperry’s The COVID Chronicles: A Hermosa Beach Memoir, Lauren McKeon’s Women of the Pandemic: Stories from the Frontlines of COVID-19.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A