three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
30-Sept-Oct-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-The New YorkersYou may know the pup, but chances are you don’t know the owner. In The New Yorkers, Cathleen Schine introduces the characters, both human and canine, who cross paths on a slightly scruffy street on the Upper West Side. Jody, an insomniac music teacher, meets Everett, a divorced chemist, through her elderly pit bull. When a man commits suicide inside his apartment, he leaves behind a puppy who encourages Polly, recently dumped by her boyfriend, and her bartender brother George, to sign the lease. As Everett falls for the canine Howdy and guidance counselor Doris learns to tolerate man’s best friend, the urban isolation borne by city living slowly breaks down.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 290 pages. $24. ISBN: 0374221839

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with plastic bags instead of pixie dust, where recalcitrant strangers wake to a world bigger and kinder than they ever imagined. And because this is a frothy comedy of manners, it’s easy to miss how fine and precise its execution—its authentic, pitch-perfect lilt and sway, its evocation of a dollhouse view of society." Gail Caldwell

Newsday 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The New Yorkers is itself a love letter, its sweetness nicely salted with Schine’s deft irony. If you’ve ever peered curiously into the living room windows on a Manhattan side street, with or even without a leash in your hand, it will make you smile." Janice P. Nimura

Philadelphia Inquirer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s a complex story with a lot of connections and plots tumbling over each other, but Schine manages to keep the stories and characters in check because the plot plods along at the pace of everyday life and shows how everything can be changed by a trip to the shelter or a puppy in the closet. … It leans toward cliché, and by the final quarter of the book, you can guess how everything will come together." Jen A. Miller

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"Anyone who has ever caught the boastful glint in a dog’s eye as it walks bouncily ahead of its bedraggled, sweat-pants-wearing owner will recognize the chord Schine sounds here: would we could all see in one another what dogs see in their owners. With the author’s gentle cues, we look fondly at the animals, then raise our eyes with heightened interest to their owners." Liesl Schillinger

Seattle Times 3 of 5 Stars
"It’s a pleasant read, though never particularly compelling. … Ultimately The New Yorkers, with its cute chapter-head dog drawings (by Leanne Shapton), is a sweet if fleeting tribute to the way neighborhoods and dogs bring people together; by its end, you can almost see the credits roll." Moira Macdonald

Critical Summary

"If Cathleen Schine’s The New Yorkers were a movie, it would be directed by Nora Ephron and would feature lots of fuzzy sweaters and adorable close-ups of dogs," opines the Seattle Times. Critics agree that while sweet and engaging enough, The New Yorkers is not riveting, although it does offer an insightful, microcosmic view of urban alienation. Each character taken individually is somewhat unremarkable; it’s the dogs that enliven their owners and, by extension, their owners’ abilities to connect. Despite Schine’s sophisticated wit, a few reviewers cited some self-conscious narrative insertions and clichés. But in this inside view of one block’s dynamics, it’s clear that "Only dog love … is a straight line from start to finish" (Boston Globe).