Saturday, February 10, 2024

Book Review: "Fourteen Days" by The Authors Guild

Shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the residents of a rundown apartment building on NYC’s Lower East Side begin gathering on the rooftop terrace for fresh air. They participate in the cheering for the health care workers, which occurs each evening at 7:00 pm.

Little by little, they start to linger on the roof after the cheering subsides. At first they keep to themselves, reading, playing with their phones, pondering the pandemic, but then they start to tell each other stories—stories that happened to them, stories passed down from their families, even fables or ghost stories. All can’t be true, but the shared time proves therapeutic.

The narrator is the building’s female superintendent, a virtual stranger to the tenants, as she took the job and moved in just before the lockdown began. Armed with her predecessor’s “bible,” a binder profiling each tenant and the nickname he bestowed upon them, she takes it upon herself to record and transcribe the stories they are told. And she has stories of her own as well.

As soon as I heard about this book, I wanted to read it. Each chapter contains multiple stories, and each story is written by another author, everyone from Margaret Atwood, John Grisham, Angie Cruz, to Diana Gabaldon, Erica Jong, and Tess Gerritsen. (Interestingly enough, the stories don't identify the authors; you won't know who wrote which chapter until the end. Unless you cheat.)

Sadly, the concept didn’t work as well as I had hoped—essentially, it’s a group of short stories, some of which are excellent, some of which are not, and some of which have too much detail to actually be a story someone would tell. (And don’t get me started on the ending.)

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