Jill's Reviews > Triburbia: A Novel

Triburbia by Karl Taro Greenfeld
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's review
Jun 05, 2012

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Read from June 04 to 05, 2012

It almost takes an act of courage to write about very rich characters these days – particularly when they’re not only rich but also vapid. Any author who tries runs the risk of having his or her characters labeled “unlikeable.”

And indeed, these Tribeca neighbors – a sound engineer, a sculptor, a top chef and so on -- are not the most likeable characters in the world. In one of the stories, a group of friends twirls up “the best stoner munchie in the history of the world: pasta with caviar and truffles”, as one plaintively asks, “Something will (expletive) it up. The ozone layer or something. Something will ruin the fun.”

Life does conspire to ruin the fun. A sound engineer bears an uncanny resemblance to a child molester whose face appears on a number of flyers. A memoirist is being pursued for fabricating stories. (He tries to explain, “Personal memoir had always been an impressionistic rather than factual genre.”) Affairs and accidents and betrayals occur and dreams are shattered occur over the course of one single school year.

The headline of each story is a Tribeca address (such as 65 Hudson). And the writing is often strong and intriguing (“It had become a mounting disappointment to Brick that the woman he was having an affair with looked so much like his wife.”) As a reader, I wanted to see more linkage between the characters; they all stood alone and that may well be the point. But it would have been more satisfying had the individual stories been more closely connected.

Interestingly, I read Triburbia directly after reading another book that focused on neighbors – Juliet in August – which delved deep into the hopes and disappointments of those in a small Canadian town. Perhaps, due to that unfortunate juxtaposition, I wanted more from Triburbia – a greater sense of introspection and growth, a deeper sense of character development. I’m torn between 3 and 4 stars.

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