‘Sup readers? Welcome to this week’s On The Shelf column, Fan Fest’s premiere book review column. Each week, I take a newly-released piece of literature and analyze it for review, letting you know whether I (subjectively of course) believe that it’s worth keeping around on your shelf, or if you’re better off using that space for FunKo Pops and keeping the book on your ereader instead.
This week’s book was Three Floors Up by Israel-based author Eshkol Nevo and translated by Sondra Silverston. Honestly, guys, sometimes when I write reviews I am truly at a loss for words as to how to describe the things I’m talking about. Basically, Three Floors Up is about three very different tenants in the same apartment building, spilling their secrets to their individual friends. They have only the briefest, neighbourly knowledge of each other, but readers are treated to their confessionals straight away, acting as the willing ears that hear their woes.
I’m just going to pop the publisher-official summary down here because they put it better than I ever could:
On the first floor, Arnon, a tormented retired officer who fought in the First Intifada, confesses to an army friend with a troubled military past how his obsession about his young daughter’s safety led him to lose control and put his marriage in peril. Above Arnon lives Hani, known as “the widow,” whose husband travels the world for his lucrative job while she stays at home with their two children, increasingly isolated and unstable. When her brother-in-law suddenly appears at their door begging her to hide him from loan sharks and the police, she agrees in spite of the risk to her family, if only to bring some emotional excitement into her life. On the top floor lives a former judge, Devora. Eager to start a new life in her retirement, Devora joins a social movement, desperately tries to reconnect with her estranged son, and falls in love with a man who isn’t what he seems.
This is my first experience with Nevo as a writer and I was nothing short of blown away. His writing style is engaging and has an ultimately conversational tone that makes it feel like the characters are speaking directly to you as they confess their sins and share their life and times; the good, the bad, and the cringey. Nevo has a wonderful talent for portraying all sides of the story he is telling. None of his characters are completely justifiable, nor are they worth utter vitriol. The fact that they are each a composite of black, white, and all the shades in-between is so refreshing. Seeing humans actually reflected in all their flawed glory on the page is rare and, quite frankly, beautiful. So many writers are interested in championing their characters as either entirely sympathetic or entirely toxic and the truth is that everyone has the capacity for both.
Of all the confessionals, Arnon’s tugged at my heartstrings the most because even after everything he did, that one little mistake that gave way to dozens of others, culminating into something huge and (to some readers) unforgivable, his heart was still in the right place. It was hard to be disgusted with him for the decisions he made because his ultimate goal, above everything, was to save his daughter, and in that, his intention and integrity never wavered.
I don’t want to spoil the book at all or ruin the various plotlines, all I can tell you is that if you’re looking for a gripping, yet grounded read, check out Three Floors Up. I absolutely recommend it for your shelf, and if it sounds like it might be for you, you can buy your copy here.
On the Shelf rating: 4.5 orange groves out of 5.