Heroic Measures centres around Ruth and Alex, who need to leave their apartment because they can no longer manage the stairs, their sick Dachshund Dorothy, and a suspected terrorist plot to blow up a nearby tunnel. The narration seamlessly switches between Ruth, Alex, and Dorothy. Yes, Dorothy the dog. It sounds gimmicky but, somehow, it works.
It’s a book about how life goes on, even in the face of personal crises (like a sick beloved pet) or wider crises (like a possible terrorist on the loose in the local neighbourhood). The morning of peak crisis for Ruth and Alex they still have to go ahead with their open house to sell the flat, because their lives must still move regardless. As must the lives of those wanting to move in (or just inappropriately lie on their bed for 1o minutes).
Linked to this, it’s also a book about growing older. We get some glimpses of Ruth and Alex’s lives when they were younger, but only in the context of Alex creating art from their (literal) records. The focus is on who they are now, and the small gestures and familiarity that comes with a decades-long relationship, though not without times the other person or themselves surprises or changes. It’s clear throughout that Ruth and Alex are coming to the end of long lives, but this does not mean they are standing still.
The book is also filled with immigration, New York, the media, and real estate.
There were moments it felt a little over-written, as a novel like this needs incredibly tight prose to work. But, most of the time, the details Ciment picks out are just right.
A quiet, light novel, with little plot, but in a way that feels real and intimate. It’s that feeling of ‘real’ that makes it. I like it.
Heroic Measures is released in the UK on 10th September 2015.
I received a free copy of Heroic Measures from Pushkin Press in exchange for an honest review.