After the Fall
By Victoria Roberts
185 pages, $25
By Charity Vogel
NEWS BOOK REVIEWER
Alan is leading the typical life of a well-to-do New York City kid – going to class at an exclusive school; minding his sister; socializing with the help – when his inventor father gives him the bad news: the family has just lost everything.
Precarious to begin with (which tends to happen when you have an unpredictable genius for a father and a temperamental Buenos Aires beauty for a mom), the lives of Alan and his little sister are suddenly upended.
Temporarily. For, after learning the worst has happened, Alan wakes up not in his familiar penthouse apartment – but in Central Park. The family’s possessions are distributed here and there throughout the park; whole rooms are re-created, minus the doors and windows.
Such is the premise of “After the Fall,” a light, witty book by illustrator and writer Victoria Roberts that is billed as a novel but that really is more of a long story paired with illustrations. The book is about fifty-fifty, half words, half pictures.
The delight of this story – which will please New Yorkers or those who wish to live there, as well as stylish aunties and best friends everywhere – lies in the resourcefulness of a family that, on first blush, would seem helpless when thrust into the real world.
Think an upper-crust Manhattan clan would be lost without their espresso maker, housekeeper and private parking?
Think again, reader. Alan and his sister, Sis, cope, and so well you’d swear they had done it all before: him by pretending to go to school each day, to save face, her by staging dramas in the park with casts of woodland animals. (Four squirrels as the cast of “Little Women”? An animal adaptation of Beckett’s “Happy Days”? Yes, please.) “Animals will do anything for food, if you ask them nicely,” Sis reports.
Meanwhile, Pops is working contentedly in his bathrobe and needle-pointed slippers on a few new inventions, and the book’s best character, Mother – excepting a brief fling – is wearing Valentino and sunglasses, chain-smoking, and cracking her usual sarcastic remarks. “Because Pops had time on his hands,” we read, “he spent more time with Mother. Mother said they finally had one thing in common – displacement.”
As Pops tells the family, his goal “was to become ‘in-suff-pen-dent,’ as he put it, a combination of self-sufficient and independent.” (In 2012, isn’t that a lovely word, and ambition, to ponder?)
This family finds its way back to happiness, no doubt about it.
The penthouse, too. How they do it is worth reading for yourself, in Roberts’ shimmery soufflé of drawing and storytelling.
This book makes a nice counterpoint to some of the more depressing reads on offer this holiday season.
Isn’t attitude everything? In “After the Fall,” the answer, happily, is yes.
Charity Vogel is a News staff reporter.