Cooperative Lives


LITERATURE:  With a preface, a cast of more than one dozen featured characters, and four parts, “Cooperative Lives” is a morality play rendered in novel form. Set in an affluent co-op apartment building on Central Park South in New York City, residents’ complicated personal and professional lives overlap and implode. IT security specialist Wallace, his event planner wife Hanni, and attorney Jack Roberts and their circles of influence create churning patterns of intrigue and cascading negative consequences. Variations on themes of marital discord, grief, unemployment, espionage, and shady government agents start as biting social commentary and morph into multiple mysteries with thriller elements. Each chapter begins with a metaphorical snippet and a glyph that uses red, yellow or green to signal where the scenes occur in the sliding timeline in the past or present. 

Descriptions of New York City in geography and attitudes give the locations distinctive energy as the setting for interconnected conflicts of interest between neighbors, husbands and wives, employees and employers, financial advisors and investors, doctors and patients, law enforcement officers and suspects, and the media and its targets. Establishing layered character sketches for each of the players slows the momentum of Part I, but Part II accelerates , and shifts in tone appear by Part III. A cynical mood about the nature of commitments and loyalty dominates this diligent examination of Wall Street, health care, covert surveillance, and scapegoating. There’s an illogical plot point related to medical procedures that clangs as a dud. The story ends with some unanswered questions. Filled with twisty turns, shocking revelations, and provocative portrayals of institutionalized power inequities, “Cooperative Lives” is a precisely engineered cautionary tale that entertains. 

Cardyn Brooks