Cover image for Between two rivers
Between two rivers
Rinaldi, Nicholas, 1934-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, [2004]

Physical Description:
432 pages ; 24 cm
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Within the walls of
Echo Terrace, the world ...

A beautifully resonant novel with a dazzling array of characters whose life stories are woven together into a breathtaking braid of love and memory.

Farro Fescu is the proud and observant concierge of Echo Terrace, a condominium in New York City. Passing through his lobby at all hours of the night and day is an exotic cross-section of the world's population: an Egyptian-born plastic surgeon who lives on the fifth floor and specializes in gender reassignment; a fighter pilot, on the eighth floor, who flew for Nazi Germany during World War II; an Iraqi spice merchant and the world-famous crazy-patch quilter with whom he's having an affair; the adulterer's son, dreaming of becoming an undertaker; and the widow whose apartment is a jungle Eden filled with a menagerie of specimens -- finches, canaries, a defanged cobra, a monkey named Joe -- that had been the subject of her dead husband's research.

Farro Fescu knows them all, knows all their secrets. He knows what happened to Yesenia Rivera, the nineteen-year-old staff housekeeper from Queens, when she took a fateful ride one evening on the Staten Island Ferry. He alone knows the truth behind the mysterious mishap that befell the fashion designer Ira Klempp, a resident of the twelfth floor. And he knows -- and would like to know much more -- about the alluring María Gracia Moño, sometime lover of Harry Falcon, the brilliant captain of industry who lives in the penthouse and is dying of cancer.

He is keenly attuned to the building and the people in it, yet he does not know what is in his own heart -- why, after a long, hard life, he is still alive, and still alone. Nor does he know what he will be capable of in the face of sudden, overwhelming tragedy.

As the narrative eye of Between Two Rivers floats from one apartment to another, revealing the characters' private histories and tracing the dramatic intersections of their daily lives, a lush tapestry of experience emerges. The story, in beautifully textured prose, is laced with wit and humor, subtle ironies and haunting echoes, and everywhere a profound sense of the resilience of the human spirit.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Through the microcosm of a large cast of international characters residing in a condo building in lower Manhattan during the years 1992-2001, Rinaldi summons no less than the pageant of the human tragicomedy. Each of them, at times, lonely and isolated, harbors an incredibly rich interior life in which the past is fully alive and readily accessible. Karl Vogel, a highly decorated WWII German fighter pilot, recalls his hatred for Hitler, while Farro Fescu, the proud Romanian concierge, still misses his uncles, who may have been killed in one of Vogel's bombing raids; nevertheless, the two men share a cordial relationship. Egyptian-born plastic surgeon Theo Tattafruge, who specializes in transgender operations, obsessively researches Teddy Roosevelt's adventurous life, finding in it an intoxicating mix of decisiveness and optimism that is so lacking in his patients' lives. Artist Maggie Sowle is commissioned by the UN to make a memorial quilt and puts her long-dead, much-loved husband's handprints at the center. In this way, Rinaldi effortlessly intertwines the political and the personal. With lavish and loving detail, he invokes the human experience--weddings and wars, art and commerce, births and funerals. A beautiful, emotionally uplifting tribute to the human spirit. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Intertwining stories by the author of The Jukebox Queen of Malta offer subtle portraits of the residents of Echo Terrace, a fictitious Battery Park building in which the condominiums are named after the likes of Mae West, Susan B. Anthony and Grandma Moses. At the book's center is the inimitable Romanian concierge, Farro Fescu, who watches with keen eyes the comings and goings of the intriguing inhabitants, including Karl Vogel, a Luftwaffe pilot engaged in an affair with a journalist whose grandfather was killed by a Nazi fighter pilot ("She is making peace with the enemy," Karl thinks); Yesenia, a captivating 19-year-old housemaid who is brutally raped on the way home to her Queens apartment; and Theo, a plastic surgeon who falls for a widow whose husband admitted to an affair and shortly thereafter died of a heart attack. Devastated, the woman, Nora, poisons her exotic pets ("Whatever I love, I make it die") and then walks into traffic. With Nora in a coma, her young actress niece, Angela, moves into her apartment and enters into an unlikely affair with a poem-quoting undertaker who is convinced that love can conquer all. Among a few bizarre twists, a young designer falls (or is pushed) from a window, and Theo is drafted by the FBI to perform a sex-change operation on one of Augusto Pinochet's collaborators. These are complex, moving stories without straightforward resolutions-as one character remarks, "Life is heavy, it weighs"-and if they feel a bit overwritten sometimes, Rinaldi compensates for this with multifaceted and memorable characters. Agent, Nat Sobel. (June 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Rumanian refugee Farro Fescu cannily observes tenants at the New York condo where he serves as concierge. An in-house favorite. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Between Two Rivers A Novel Chapter One A Green Dream of the Jungle In Nora Abernooth's ninth-floor apartment, there are finches, canaries, three marmosets, a defanged cobra, a tortoise, and a macaw with blue and gold feathers. There is also a rhesus monkey that answers to the name of Joe, and a glass-enclosed formicarium loaded with ants. She lets the finches out of their cages and they flit about from room to room, perching on the chairs and lamps, and on the lemon tree in the living room. In the kitchen, which is hung with white cabinets, they flutter among the morning glories by the window, and in their busy way they poke at the grapes and the apricots in the fruit bowl. Her husband, Louis, who had had a burgeoning career as an entomologist, has been dead now for six years, yet there are times when it seems he's still alive, moving among the animals. She hears him in the library, browsing through his books, or in the kitchen, fumbling with the coffeepot. There are moments when she seems to glimpse him from the corner of her eye -- but when she looks up, there's nothing, merely a finch gliding by, or one of the snakes readjusting itself on the sofa. She lives with echoes, shadows, dim rustlings, as if every wall in the apartment were a foggy mirror tossing up tarnished images and vague, elusive glimmers. In the winter months, when the heat is on, robbing the air of moisture, she keeps a humidifier going day and night. The animals suffer when the air is dry. She turns on the showers in both bathrooms, letting the steam flow warm and wet into the other rooms. The air thickens and grows heavy, like the air of the rain forest in Ecuador, where she spent several months with Louis soon after they were married. Their jungle honeymoon, she called it, their lush, decadent romp in the tangled wilderness. For the finches, there is a mix of millet and canary seed, with cuttlebone and grit. The macaw is spoiled on peanuts. For the tortoise, a mash of fresh fruit and vegetables, with bonemeal. Because of the moisture in the air, there's a problem with mold. Dampness clings to the white walls, forming patches of varying shapes and sizes -- in the living room, above the mantel, a magenta smear that shades off to pale yellow, and in the dining room, above the buffet, a gray smudge tinged with red. In the master bedroom, small green spots have appeared on the white louvred doors that open onto the walk-in closet. She used to be diligent about wiping the mold away as soon as it formed, but now it's simply there, growing at will, allowed to make its way in whatever shapes and colors it chooses. After her bath, as she towels herself dry, she wanders from room to room, wet feet leaving a meandering trail on the beige wall-to-wall that carpets the apartment. Her trail winds through the bedroom, the dining room, Louis's library, through the long foyer, and ends in the large but sparsely furnished living room, where she picks up a Bible from the coffee table and stretches out on the floor, on the bearskin in front of the fireplace. She is pink and warm from the bath, and pleasantly drowsy. The Bible is a Gideon that she took, years ago, from a motel in Ithaca. It's the only Bible she's ever owned.That time in Ithaca, it was her first night with Louis, before they were married. "I want this," she said, taking the Bible, tenderly, as a reminiscence. It disappeared for a while, buried in a box of books, but after Louis died, when she was cleaning out and rearranging, she found it again, and now it's a comfort for her, a source of solace and consolation. Scarcely a day goes by that she doesn't linger over a few verses, deriving a haunting satisfaction from the old words and rhythms. The bearskin is from a giant grizzly, Ursus horribilis -- this one was cinnamon-colored, the fur thick and reddish brown. It was given to her long ago by her grandfather, when he was very old and she was very young. She runs her fingers through the fur and leans down into it, into the bear's warmth, into the hard-soft clumps of hair, and the Bible falls open to a page she's looked at many times before. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters . She lies down into the bear's fur, into its silence, and thinks of Louis, gone forever, yet at this moment, in his vague way, he is here in the room with her, breathing as she is breathing, and waiting to be touched. Her face is deep into the pelt, into its rugged smoothness, and this, she thinks, is death, the beginning of it, the slowness of it, the valley of the shadow, shaped in darkness.And yes, she thinks, yes, I will fear no evil. Her fingers clutch lightly at the bear's wool and she breathes heavily, tugging at the humid air. The rhesus watches her. The cobra glides across her ankles. A finch flies from the mantel to the lemon tree, and she lies there, on the bearskin, in a green dream of the jungle, thinking of Louis. In the rain forest there were monkeys in the trees, high in the canopy, and birds with warm, burning wings, toucans and tanagers, and always the insects, the glorious, swarming insects, incessant among the flowers and rotting logs. It was because of the insects that they were there, she and Louis, those slow three months in the first year of their marriage. They were gathering specimens. Louis was on leave from the university, on a government grant, studying the insects and finding some that no one had ever seen before. He searched and collected, and she used the camera, her father's old Leica ... Between Two Rivers A Novel . Copyright © by Nicholas Rinaldi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Between Two Rivers: A Novel by Nicholas Rinaldi All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Farro Fescu's End-of-the-World Friday Fantasyp. 3
Part 1 A Green Dream of the Junglep. 19
From Trance to Venial Sinp. 55
Mist on the Sepik River, Drums Beatingp. 59
The Jamaica Avenue Elp. 82
The War Against the Antsp. 110
The Persistence of Bluep. 116
The Bench by the Riverp. 130
The Mournful Sound of the Train, Folding Over Himp. 142
The Return of Renata Negrip. 160
God Gives the Rainp. 166
A Wish List, a Hate Listp. 189
The End-of-the-Century Memorial Quiltp. 194
Part 2 The Blood Purge of 1934p. 221
Snow Falling, Eighteen Minutes Past Noonp. 240
Nora Dancingp. 251
The Whiteness of the Fields--No Crows, No Deerp. 259
The Long, Happy Death of Ira Klemppp. 289
The Chapel Near the Ferryp. 295
The Elephant Showp. 311
Orchids and Candy Heartsp. 319
The Fourth of Julyp. 331
The Birdp. 350
Four Adagios and a Love Letterp. 360
Part 3 The Birthday of Muhta Saadp. 379
Black Smoke Risingp. 396
Papers in the Dustp. 416