Publication date: March 18, 2014
In Visible City author Tova Mirvis takes on two of the most socially polarizing groups in America today—mommies and not-mommies. Both groups feel themselves to be ignored and misunderstood and both groups can count on staunch supporters. In the children-need-discipline group is Claudia, an architectural historian who is being auditorially assaulted on all sides. Immediately outside her Manhattan apartment a modern glass high-rise building is going up and the construction noise has driven her to her favorite small café for quiet in which to do her writing. Unfortunately it is not to be as a group of mothers and their children descend and within minutes
They began screaming for no apparent reason, running as if they were at a playground. Claudia felt sympathy for the mothers, but they were untroubled by their children’s behavior. These mothers saw nothing, heard nothing, said nothing as their children raced to the rear of the café…They made no distinction between the café and their living rooms, between the world of children and adults.
When she remarks that ‘this is not a playground’ the mothers retreat, only to notify the media of their harassment. Little does Claudia know but one of these mothers is a neighbor, Nina, who is grappling with the burdens of motherhood and uses her nights alone while her husband works late yet again, to spy on Claudia and her husband.
Mirvis’s use of two couples at different stages of life—Jeremy and Nina at the beginning of his career in a high pressure law office and hers as a stay-at-home mom and Leon and Claudia, parents of a grown daughter who are beginning to wonder just why they are still together—adds an additional element to the novel. It’s not just about the myriad interactions that occur in a city the size of Manhattan but also the interactions between the people we love.
There are moments in Visible City where it feels as if Mirvis is trying too hard to cover as many of the colorful characters that populate a wildly diverse city but in the same way unforeseen patterns emerge in the chaos that is Manhattan so the novel ties together the disparate lives of its characters. It also cleverly illuminates the life that is lived on the surface and the one that occurs within. Very few are ever the same.