Before the High Line Park there was a train that ran through their lives…
Salome and her mother Max live in a Manhattan loft surrounded by Abstract Expressionist murals and views of the West Side Highway. It is a neighborhood of meatpacking plants and nightclubs and the echoes of ocean liners. Salome never learned to roller skate on cobblestones, but her playground is Mr. Zwerling’s hardware store and her best friend is a man who cannot speak.
MEATPACKING is a downtown world where few children grow, where the streetlights are broken and the pay phones don’t work, and her mother struggles to provide for her. Over the years Salome creates a garden of her own on the railroad viaduct, a private world that few others will understand.
From World War II and the decades after, MEATPACKING chronicles an unusual family in a once abandoned but now thriving neighborhood of New York.
Written in beautiful, haunting prose, the novel’s episodic, non-linear nature captures the everyday, the extraordinary, and the sweep of time. In detailing the lives of this unusual family, Heslin explores the meanings of artistic success, happiness and freedom in a society that, in its relentless march towards “progress,” cares little for people stranded by the wayside, people who do not conform, people who, by chance or choice, are different. Fiercely independent, protagonist Max must continuously struggle to preserve that independence. Mr. Zwerling, made different by his cleft lip, chooses uncompromising, unconditional kindness, and his choice makes life hard. Similarly, Salome’s slower rhythms make her life challenging.
New York City and the viaduct—a chunk of which eventually becomes the High Line public park—are characters too. Kind, cruel, indifferent, and broken by turns, they remind the reader that change is the only constant, inviting contemplation of cities, lives, and time itself, and stirring a sense of the human in the often inhuman scheme of things.
Takeaway: A haunting tale of an unusual foursome against the backdrop of an ever-changing New York.
Great for fans of: Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, Dawn Powell’s The Golden Spur.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A