Book Review: 'Fishbowl'

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bradley Somer. St. Martin's Press, 296 pp. $24.99

Imagine the amount of time it takes a goldfish to fall from his 1-gallon bowl on the balcony on the 27th floor of an apartment building. Now think of everything else that is going on in that amount of time, the conversations between the two people, the decisions made, the lives altered one way or another.

This is the basis for Bradley Somer's book, "Fishbowl." Ian, the aforementioned goldfish, is falling. But the story is not really about Ian. The story is, instead, about Connor, the grad student who owns the goldfish, and his girlfriend Katie, who he's not entirely faithful to. There's also Garth, who lives several stories below Connor and who has a secret he's afraid of revealing to those close to him. Petunia Delilah lives on the eighth floor, and she's heavily pregnant and likely to go into labor at any moment. Her boyfriend, Danny, works with Garth.

Claire also lives on the eighth floor, but she's agoraphobic and hasn't left her apartment in quite a while. And then there's Herman, a boy who thinks he can travel through time and who lives with his grandfather.

Each of these stories takes place at the Seville on Roxy, an apartment building in a city somewhere. The entire story -- made up of all of these sub-stories -- probably only spans a few hours, if that. Not exactly the time frame of Ian's fall, but not that far off, in the scope of literature.

I loved the whimsy in "Fishbowl." The characters are imaginative and bright, yet still clearly fiction. I can see bits and pieces of them around me, but I don't know anyone that could specifically fit any of them. I liked the way Somer told the story, almost through the fourth wall, but not so obvious about it.

The point of the story is this: at any given moment dozens of things are happening. A woman could go into labor, a man could cheat on his girlfriend or a boy could travel through time, all in the amount of time it takes a goldfish to fall from a bowl on a balcony on the 27th floor of an apartment building in a city somewhere.

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