by Susan Fales-Hill
In the past year I’ve read a few novels that take place in modern New York City. There were a couple that tried to tackle the topics of the new generation of women struggling with career vs. staying at home, gentrification into whatever is the hot neighborhood of the moment, and celebrities wanting a “normal” life. One even tried, unsuccessfully, to take on the race question. It was laughable. The ones that turned me off the most were billed as sort of Sex and The City hybrids, where former party girls were finally settling down and having families.
So I was a bit hesitant when I saw One Flight Up, especially with the picture of the brownstone on the cover. I hadn’t read any reviews and just didn’t want to be disappointed again. But, on the other hand, I’m a sucker for a brownstone on the cover of a book, so I went ahead and picked it up. Glad I did.
One Flight Up follows the lives of four women (it’s always four, isn’t it?) in Manhattan as they work on their “happily-ever-afters”. India, the mixed-race daughter of a drama queen British actress, makes her living as a a divorce lawyer. She is safely ensconced in a relationship with a French chef, but her lack of faith in love as well as unfinished business with an ex, make it difficult for her to commit fully. The other three women are India’s former classmates at an upscale private girls school. There’s Abby, who supports the artistic dreams of her philandering husband, but struggles with her own desires. Esme is the (almost stereotypical) fiery, Brazilian heiress who finds herself married to a loving husband and living in the suburbs. But that doesn’t stop her from having lots of fun on the side. And then there’s Monique, an African-American gynecologist who was India’s nemesis in high school. Monique married for love and security, but now finds herself needing a little more passion. During the course of the book, each woman is forced to examine and re-examine her life and priorities.
What I Liked: I liked that although these were obviously women who made lots of money and were successful in their careers, I didn’t feel beaten over the head with it. Yes, they can afford lavish vacations, and pricey material objects, but compared to some other books I’ve read, the label- and name-dropping were pretty much kept to a minimum. In essence, the problems that these women had weren’t just rich people problems, they are universal. The conversations surrounding race were interesting and sometimes uncomfortable, just as they are in real life.
What I Disliked: There were a couple passages about India’s ex that were a bit redundant. It was nothing major, just an extra explanation that wasn’t needed.