Published by A. A. Knopf on April 30, 2013
Source: I borrowed this book from my local library.
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Nora Eldridge, a 37-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is on the verge of disappearing. Having abandoned her desire to be an artist, she has become the "woman upstairs," a reliable friend and tidy neighbour always on the fringe of others' achievements. Then into her classroom walks a new pupil, Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents--dashing Skandar, a half-Muslim Professor of Ethical History born in Beirut, and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist--have come to America for Skandar to teach at Harvard.
But one afternoon, Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies who punch, push and call him a "terrorist," and Nora is quickly drawn deep into the complex world of the Shahid family. Soon she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora's happiness explodes her boundaries--until Sirena's own ambition leads to a shattering betrayal.
Written with intimacy and piercing emotion, this urgently dispatched story of obsession and artistic fulfillment explores the thrill--and the devastating cost--of giving in to one's passions. The Woman Upstairs is a masterly story of America today, of being a woman and of the exhilarations of love.
The Woman Upstairs started out with a bang. Nora was one angry woman, wow! She puts on a front. She tries to be a good person (although usually by ignoring how she really feels). This is Nora’s story about being over it. I loved her rage and couldn’t wait to find out the back story.
Talk about a dysfunctional friendship. My reaction upon finishing the novel was to place blame on one side or the other. After thinking some more, I realized it wasn’t so simple. I had a lot of questions. (I’ll be vague so as not to spoil anything.) Was there intentional, malicious using of people? Was there a neglect in setting up healthy boundaries from the start? Maybe a little of both? The novel doesn’t give clear answers, and that is a strength. But I expected a lot after the strong, powerful opening. Honestly, everything felt kind of bland after that.