Infinite Home

Kathleen Alcott

I suppose we are reaching peak Brooklyn when in the course of two months, I’ve read two recent ensemble novels based in Brooklyn brownstones. (The other one I skipped writing about.) The characters of Infinite Home are a disparate group who barely interact with each other for years, yet in the course of this story come to bond into a familial unit. It’s a breeze to read, the chapters bouncing quickly around the different apartments of the building, and Alcott manages to fill in everyone’s back story while moving the greater narrative forward. But for the most part the characters remained fictional personas to me. They are all affectedly flawed with too many contrived and even out-of-character moments — as when (spoiler) an agoraphobic person abruptly feels able to not just leave the house but fly across the country.

The story suffered too much when the action moved beyond Brooklyn and slowly the brownstone emptied. Even if the road trip to see synchronous fireflies in the Smoky Mountains was interesting, it also seemed like an unnecessary sidetrack. Alcott strives for lyricism, but her endless similes and metaphors get tiresome and distracting, as when she describes a character “waving the biscuits as though trying to keep the attention of a baby” — they rarely provided any useful context. Maybe for me this book suffered from being bookended by two Ferrante novels, which drew me in so much more, but while Infinite Home was fairly entertaining to read, it felt too obviously constructed.