Don’t miss ‘Metropolis’ | Books and authors

“Metropolis” by BA Shapiro; Algonquin books (355 pages, $27.95)

Both mystery and sociological study, BA Shapiro’s new novel, “Metropolis”, starts from a fascinating premise. Former drug dealer-turned-straightforward Zach Davidson buys a castle-like warehouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts called Metropolis. These aren’t the corrugated iron units you see on the outskirts of town; these units are huge. Some are double in size, with windows – almost like studios. You see what I mean.

Zach hires Rose as office manager – Rose, who skims the money to pay for her good-for-nothing son’s football equipment and quietly charges several people (cash) to allow them to live (illegally) in their units.

The chapters are told from various points of view, including those of Zach; Pink; Liddy – a wealthy woman trying to escape her abusive husband; Marta – a student whose immigration status was marred by a clerical error and who is now at risk of deportation; Jason, a lawyer who “offices” out of Metropolis; and, most fascinatingly, Serge, a street photographer who pays Rose to allow him to photograph the interiors of units.

This is an exuberant novel – not funny, but entertaining, as we first learn why so many people call Metropolis home, then watch everything explode when someone falls (or was pushed? ) In an elevator shaft.

Shapiro clearly loves her characters, and you can tell she struggled with the harm that had to be done to them. All are guilty of something, and all have taken refuge in the mini-city that is Metropolis, although after the fall none of them, of course, can stay. And now what?

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