“Book Review: Five Windows”
Reviewed by Rosa Kumar
Like spying on your neighbor, Five Windows offers a unique look into the life of the man you see pacing back and forth in front of his window.
Jon Roemer’s debut novel Five Windows is a fascinating glimpse into the life of our unnamed protagonist, an editor at a small press publisher for unique and brilliant books, living behind the thin walls and windows of his outer San Francisco home. Roemer’s book is one part humor, one part ambiguous, and all parts existential.
Our protagonist is a stationary workaholic in a trendy San Francisco suburb on the rise. His wife left him, he has few friends, and he experiences life almost solely through the five windows of his apartment. Those five windows become an obsessive part of his life, and though he does leave his house on occasion, his interactions are largely limited to his gay neighbors, the EggSprout delivery guy, and the people who pass by his window.
The famous San Franciscan neighborhood our protagonist resides in is quickly gentrifying; families and residents who have lived there for years are disappearing. Their homes are quickly “improving” with expensive renovations, and upper-middle-class couples are moving in. Our protagonist observes the growing hostility as both an outsider and insider, and he can’t figure out if the increasing fires and explosions are created by the old locals or the new generation of residents.
“…things moved quickly, and everything was new there, a testament to how people shape the world for themselves. Plenty of others nearby have been spruced up – gone condo, switched out families – but a turning point came with that young boy’s departure. His removal. His extraction…I now see a very expensive stroller left parked on that corner for close to an hour.”
However, he might be even more consumed with a finnicky author he is potentially going to publish, the domestics between his neighbors, and what his ex-wife is doing back in town to really dig into the fire issue. Until it gets a bit too close for comfort.
This book is great for someone who enjoys a strong literary voice shared through plenty of internal dialogue and a relatively slow-moving plot. While I did have trouble relating to the protagonist and his existential drama, I could appreciate the conversations about questioning your career and lifestyle in the middle of your life.
In the brief few days we spend in our protagonist’s life, Jon Roemer manages to create a social commentary on several issues in contemporary American society. One overwhelming matter is the lack of neighborliness. Despite living in the same area for a decade, our protagonist doesn’t even know his housemates, much less the community at large, an experience shared by more than our reclusive protagonist.
Jon Roemer has created a very human book that makes you think, question yourself, and reconfigure your priorities with Five Windows.
Publisher: Dzanc Books
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