The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd
Picador • $24 • ISBN 9781250041296
published August 27, 2013
It's been five years since Celia Cassill became a young widow, and she's still very much grieving her lost husband. She has cocooned herself in the Brooklyn brownstone that she owns, renting out its three one-bedroom apartments to carefully selected tenants who keep to themselves. Her deliberately constructed isolation is challenged, however, after she reluctantly agrees to allow one of the tenants (George) to sublet his apartment to a vibrant, middle-aged woman (Hope) freshly separated from her husband. When another of Celia's tenants—Mr. Coughlan, an elderly former ferry captain—goes missing, it's clear that Celia will be forced to emerge from her solitude and engage in not only "the affairs of others," but also once again in her own life.
The Affairs of Others is Loyd's debut novel. The language is thick with sentiment and rich with sensuality. Celia's grief is palpable, her intense loneliness evident despite the stoicism of even her own thoughts. In this excerpt from the book, Celia is about to venture upstairs to join the going-away party for George.
On Saturday, the night before George was to leave, a party formed overhead. Music. Laughing. Protests. Exclamations. More laughing. I counted at least ten or so bodies by way of voices and feet. Edith Piaf cried out for them—strident, demanding—until she was replaced with the bland bass lines of what I took to be house or lounge music. Aromas of garlic and thyme and onions came to me; and I made out lamb and baked cheese, sharp and oily. I had a bottle of Veuve Clicquot for George. Chilled. I had been invited upstairs but had not yet decided to go. I heard my elevator in use—the mechanical effort begun with a shudder and them the hum that comes with its duty, a vibration in the walls. The tenants mostly used it when they had things to carry. Mr. Coughlan used it when he could admit that he was tired. I heard more doors opening and shutting. The entrance door and others. Agitation had its way of spreading. Footfalls tapping, the floors continually adjusting. Hellos hallooing. There's a certain pitch to party greetings. It aims high; it's grateful and hopeful. I had an ear for it from years of watching my mother throw parties. No matter how many times she'd been disappointed, she still believed a party could be transformative, could suspend time and place.
What do you think? Will you be checking out The Affairs of Others? What are you reading this week?