Review: Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment

Title: Heroic Measures
Author: Jill Ciment
Pages: 192
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: June 30th, 2009
Publisher: Pantheon
Source: Personal Copy

Alex and Ruth are an elderly couple living with their beloved dachshund Dorothy in a fifth story walk-up in Manhattan's Lower East Side. After living in the same apartment for 40 plus years, the two decide to sell their place in favor of a building that has an elevator. Unfortunately, the night before the big open house, their dog begins suffering from a ruptured disk in her back, and Alex and Ruth rush to the emergency clinic fifty blocks away. While waiting to hear from the doctor, the two open their doors to possible buyers and enter the high stress world of New York real estate. Meanwhile, the city is on high alert after a tanker truck has jack knifed in the Manhattan tunnel. The driver has fled, and the city fears a possible terror attack. Heroic Measures is a story told in shifting points of view about the anxiety and stress one couple must deal with over the course of one weekend.

Overall, I liked Ciment's short well-written novel. The prose was tight with few wasted words, and the plot was quite fast paced. Heroic Measures expertly captures the emotional turmoil that can be encountered in such a major urban center. The stress of trying to sell one's home combined with the fear of losing a beloved pet and the anxiety of having little information regarding a potentially terrifying event creates a tense plot. The main characters, while slightly on the irritating side, did come across as genuine, and I think the author does an excellent job representing the two people and their quirks without seeming impatient.

One aspect of the novel which went over better than I was expecting was the use of the dog Dorothy's point of view during a few pages. I didn't really think they were necessary to the overall story, but for the most part it was executed appropriately. The writing wasn't overly dramatic or in the vein of what we 'think' our animals are feeling, and the scenes were implemented sparingly.

While I enjoyed Heroic Measures on the surface, I can't say that it really gripped me. I wasn't completely engrossed, and I didn't find myself contemplating the story after finishing the novel. Nothing really stood out as being wrong or poorly constructed, other than the ending which came across as abrupt while leaving some loose ends. Really, this is mostly just my personal reaction to the story and not a reflection of anything overtly negative concerning the novel. If the synopsis intrigues you then I definitely say give it a shot.


  1. This book sounds very unique, and unlike anything I have read before. I can't decide if I would like it or not, but your review has certainly gotten me curious about it! I may have to do some more research on this one! Great review, by the way!

  2. My GF had the same reaction you did to this - short, sweet, and fairly un-memorable. We have a little dachshund and so she loved the parts from the point of view of the dog - made her think about what our dog is thinking. But other than that, she didn't have much else overwhelmingly positive to say about it.

  3. V interesting set up and premise -- not sure I would necessarily pick it up but I'm curious now!

  4. A bit off-topic, but the cover reminds me a bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I wonder if it was done by the same designer...


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