The Sunken Cathedral; Kate Walbert
Scribner - 2015
The Sunken Cathedral is a character driven novel with not much plot, but still a very interesting read. There is a sense of dread throughout the novel about some catastrophe looming, with surreal images of the Hudson River flooding NYC as strange storms threaten to devastate New York.
Marie and Simone grew up in France and later moved from Europe to Chelsea after WWII reuniting as young mothers after both women married Americans. Now widows in their 80's it's hard not to notice just how much life in their NY borough has changed. Both are still active women but anxious women as well.
The women begin a painting class from Sid Morris along with Helen a former art historian who is also in her 80's. Sid leaves a lot to be desired. His studio is filthy, his manners missing and he's eccentric to say the least. Both Marie and Simone oddly seem interested in the uncouth Sid.
Elizabeth is another character, a tenant of Marie. She is a 40-something woman with not much self-confidence. Elizabeth struggles with the uncertainty of life. Her young son Ben attends a progressive K-8 school where parents are thoroughly involved, and seem to have it all together which intimidates Elizabeth all the more. Children at this school are prepared at an early age for terror attacks, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Told from the third person POV, I liked the fact the central characters were seniors, something you don't see as often in fiction today. The story was well written and footnotes can be found at the bottom of many pages which further explores the more personal inner thoughts and details of various characters -- this worked extremely well IMO.
Overall, I was very pleased with this novel. It's different, but in a good way and fewer than 300 pages as well.