Reviews for Christodora: A Novel

by Tim Murphy

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Activism, addiction, and the redemptive power of art feature prominently in Murphy's perceptive novel about the ongoing aftermath of the AIDS crisis. Milly and Jared, artists with day jobs and good intentions, adopt young Mateo, who was orphaned when his mother died of AIDS, but find that they can't cope when teenage Mateo, now a talented artist, turns to heroin to numb his unceasing grief over his mother. Mateo hangs out with neighbor Hector, a former AIDS activist who salves his personal loss and profound professional burnout with methamphetamine. Their lives intertwine in more ways than either realizes as the two addicts careen toward disaster. As he reveals his characters' backstories, Murphy vividly recaptures 1980s and '90s New York, dampening any pop-culture nostalgia with reminders of the crude pharmacology and callous bureaucracy imposed upon those struggling with AIDS, realities journalist Murphy reported on extensively. His multigenerational tale is a clever inversion of the usual addiction-begets-AIDS narrative and a reminder that despite recent medical advances, the disease still finds ways to ravage people's lives. And if the novel expresses a degree of ambivalence about the recent decline of AIDS activism, it never wavers in its warmth toward its characters, or its insistence upon the possibility of healing.--Driscoll, Brendan Copyright 2016 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
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Murphy's (The Breeders Box) vivid account of the AIDS crisis and its aftermath centers on the venerable Christodora, a 16-story apartment building in New York's East Village. Erected in 1928, the building has gone through as many changes as the neighborhood. Its current tenants include Jared and Milly, an artistic couple, and Mateo, their adopted son. Mateo, also an artist, is a drug addict (first trying heroin in 12th grade), which turns out to be a part of a complicated legacy of other characters: Hector, an early AIDS activist mourning the loss of his lover; Issy, a young woman who contracts AIDS and becomes pregnant; and Milly's mother, Ava, an AIDS researcher with a history of mental illness. These characters witness the spread of AIDS, its ultimate politicization, and the attempts to first control and then eradicate the disease in the following decades. Mateo and the other surviving characters come together in an environmentally transformed Manhattan in 2021, where they have one final reckoning with the past. Murphy has written The Bonfire of the Vanities for the age of AIDS, using the same reportorial skills as Tom Wolfe to re-create the changing decades, complete with a pitch-perfect deployment of period detail. Skipping back and forth in time over 40 years, and projecting itself into the near future, the novel achieves a powerful evocation of the plague years. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Aug.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.