The Affairs of Others

In her debut novel, The Affairs of Others, Amy Grace Loyd has created a protagonist who is enigmatic, shy, aloof--and passionate and sexually reckless. Celia, a young widow with no family, no friends, buys a small apartment building in Brooklyn and takes in four tenants: Mr. Coughlan, an elderly man whose daughter had left him at an assisted living facility; Angie and Mitchell, a couple at odds about whether to have a child; and George, a teacher who sublets to Hope, whose husband recently left her for another woman. What follows is a slow dance of walls coming down. Mr. Coughlan disappears, Mitchell is seen with another woman, Hope takes up with Les, a brute of a man.

All semblance of separateness among the building's residents vanishes when Celia overhears the sexual congress of Hope and Les, at first erotic and then violent. Hope is injured; while she is hospitalized, Celia prowls her apartment. Then, she begins to snoop in the other apartments. Mr. Coughlan's daughter accuses her of not being watchful of her father; Celia goes to look for him.

Both Celia and Hope seem to be in fugue states, not recognizable to themselves, and in this condition, they gravitate toward one another, in friendship, solace and, eventually, intimacy. Hope's grown children enter the picture and Celia is mightily attracted to her son, Leo, who reciprocates.

The good news is that Celia is beginning to "move on" after the death of her husband. In searching for Mr. Coughlan, worrying about Angie and Mitchell, accommodating new feelings for a man and a woman, she is no longer isolated. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

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