This novel traces the lives of misfits in New York City, each with the name, or a variation of, Catherine, Simon and Lukas, and their oftentimes messy and devoted relationships to one another.
Cunningham divides this novel into three sections spanning about three hundred years.
Several threads tie these stories together: characters’ names, a white bowl with strange blue symbols on the side, and Walt Whitman’s poetry. References to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire are strong in the first story, mentioned specifically in the second, and briefly in the third. The stories start out with a strong sense of groundedness in reality at the turn of the 20th century, giving way in the second to a slightly strange and off-center New York City around 2005 and finally two hundred years into the future, a science-fiction story.
This is just weird. Very well-written, and I like weird; the characters are interesting and, for the most part, hold attention. But as I tend to read from an animal-standpoint point of view, I felt that Cunningham could have done so much more, particularly in the last story, where the "simulos" (android type people) are not allowed to own themselves, and where the character of Catherine is a lizard-like alien from another planet. So much could have been explored here, but instead Cunningham falls into the trap of animal as object, as commodity, as thing and "it." Even the machines in the first story have more consciousness than the animals who appear, not frequently, but they do appear, in his stories.