I now know that it is possible to love a book and be completely irritated by it in equal measure. This will most likely be the most negative review of a book that I am giving 5 stars.
Infinite Home is a beautiful word salad tossed with mixed results. I audibly groaned through the first two chapters. Alcott knows her way around the English language, but she wields it like a butcher knife that has become dusty with disuse after the household converted to veganism. SERIOUSLY. I made that one up, but the book is peppered with overreaching similes which constantly pulled me out of a world that I desperately wanted to stay in, with characters that I was invested in.
The owner and tenants of a New York brownstone mostly keep to themselves. Embroiled in their own worlds, they retreat behind their apartment doors but find solace in the routine hum of one another’s presence.
“The thin structure of the building ensured that no sound was contained by the apartment that produced it: the three floors gave and received heavy-footed trips to the refrigerator and unsnoozed alarm clocks and the burst-and-whoosh of bath and faucets and late-night infomercials in a reliable cycle. Living with the proof of other people’s lone domestic movements had become a kind of comfort for the tenants, a telephone that didn’t require they speak into it, a letter that didn’t ask for a reply.”
When their landlord begins to show signs of dementia, each is forced to confront their demons as they attempt to hold on to their refuge. What will become of them if their fortress is destroyed?
Alcott’s prose, similes aside, is often breath-taking. The characters that inhabit her world are each incredibly unique: the elderly landlord whose dementia recalls the mistakes of her past, a stand up comic who cannot feel joy, a woman who builds a fortress out of old things, a boy who can never become a man and an artist whose body has betrayed him. Their struggles are palpable. Their private spaces both physical and emotional are vividly drawn.
Alcott’s rich language builds this incredible world but threatens to tear it down when it becomes showy and detached. It is a wonderfully overwritten novel that both works and doesn’t work. I absolutely recommend reading it. It is, in the end, worth the frustration.