As the novel opens, Kassima is stepping out for the first time since her bereavement, looking for considerably less than the good and sexy man she finds on a stool in the neighborhood bar. Her encounter with Robert Jones, told by both in lusty counterpoint, is delicious, but she is still too raw from her losses to love easily again and sends Robert packing. In the bluesy interlude that follows, we hear solos that blow across 50-odd years, linking Kassima's story to that of her aged tenant Mr. Mallory, who looks like a bum but takes multiple-exposure photographs and writes lofty, unanswered letters about aesthetics to the Italian sculptor Giacometti. All the while, echoing through the same grim streets, we hear the soundtrack of gangsta rap, punctuated by the sounds of real guns killing real young black men. The two cities of the title are literally Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but here place swallows time, history, grief, violence, and love--giving us both an indelible experience of real people experiencing real pain and real joy and a shivery suspicion that in life as in art, a hundred different and contradictory realities coexist in any given moment. Does love or disappointment or anger conquer all?
You know the old story about the big fish that got away. How the guy telling it keeps cheating, his hands getting wider and wider apart every time he shows how big the fish was. Well, here's a funny thing about the story. Something I never understood before I met and lost her. The guy's not lying. He feels the empty between his hands growing each time he tells the story, each time the damned fish gets away again. You see, the funny thing is the sorry motherfucker's right. No matter how far apart he spreads his lying hands, he's right. The story's true.Beautiful exaggeration, inspired sociology, and first-rate fiction, Two Cities reverberates with just such truth. Don't miss it. --Joyce Thompson