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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, May 1, 2015

Fishbowl--or How Ian Fell 27 Stories from Balcony to Sidewalk

Fishbowl: A NovelFishbowl: A Novel by Bradley Somer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ships Passing in the Night

That's how my Dad used to describe the encounters we have with others as we all pass through our lives. In the case of The Fishbowl these encounters are just as fleeting but are experienced by a goldfish who made the instinctive leap toward the surface of his bowl only to escape its watery confines and find himself rushing headlong from the balcony on the 27th floor of his building toward his doom on the cement sidewalk below.

The imagery of the author's description of the apartment building's construction, the goldfish view of a cityscape from his bowl, the analogy of the building as a living organism are all enough to keep the reader interested. But to this wonderful interweaving of words and language he has added the lure of an almost voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of some of the apartment dwellers. Through them the individual boxes that comprise the building come alive.
He wanders back and forth among them but each of their stories begins as Ian, the goldfish, passes the floor on which they live. And being a goldfish, the initial glimpse is short and not very deep. After all gravity is pulling this little guy down to earth rather rapidly and, in addition, the brain of a fish is not exactly highly developed. So, as quickly as the scene makes an impression, it is lost and the fish cannot remember where he is or what is happening. A reoccurring refrain on his part is " what was I doing?" Not unlike the preoccupied musing of people in apartment buildings when their routine is interrupted by a brief encounter with another of its residents.

The author amazed me with his observational skills and his ability to describe so well various aspects of the story. I also loved his mind wandering to things like the amino acids of DNA and the concept of terminal velocity in Ian's descent. And at the end, the summation that shows how much can happen in people's lives in a very short time span and how little control they have over much of what happens.

I loved the book because I grew up in a six floor building with no elevator and no parking garage in Manhattan. Two towers with four apartments on each floor--48 boxes in all. Probably knew the occupants of about ten of them but really KNEW and interacted with those in only four. This story truly resonated with me and got me thinking back to that time 50 years ago and wondering what stories were being lived by all those neighbors.
All in all, for such a short book, an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

This review is of an ARC received from BookBrowse First Impressions for review.

PS--after reading do a page flip to follow Ian's descent. Clever touch.

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