Doxology by Nell Zink
Pam is born the same year as me and spends her young adulthood in gritty downtown NYC, working in the financial district as a programmer and living in Chinatown. So forgive me if I liked this book right off the bat.
She does live a much more hardscrabble life than me, running away from home and arriving in NYC young and anonymous. She does much more interesting programming than I ever did, too.
Joe has a fictional neurological syndrome that manifests something like a mild Down’s Syndrome in some ways, with Joe always happy and optimistic and trusting; yet fully functioning, if quirky, and tremendously creative and talented as a songwriter.
Daniel lives in an illegal apartment over a video store in the heart of Chinatown; its only entrance and egress being through the store, Daniel must be home every night by 1 AM when the metal gate comes down, else he has to stay out till 6 AM when it comes back up. He falls for Pam, and she’s into him enough to move in with him into this crazy place.
Flora is their unexpected offspring. She grows up fast. She’s precocious and smart. She’s a child when 9/11 happens, and her parents relocate her to her grandparents’ place in the DC suburbs, where she spends the remains of her childhood. She wants to save the world from climate change. She does a semester abroad in Chad and becomes a soil expert, but never can figure out quite how to channel her energy and enthusiasm to go about actually saving the world.
And that’s it. It’s the life story of these four people from the late 80s to the present moment. I was riveted.