June 28, 2004 12:00 PM

By Nicholas Rinaldi

Between Two Rivers records bits and pieces from the lives of the residents of Echo Terrace, an upscale apartment building in Lower Manhattan, as seen through the eyes of the building’s opinionated concierge, one Farro Fescu. Beginning his richly textured story before the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and ending it on Sept. 11, 2001, the author uses the final catastrophe as a way of parsing disasters, both private and public, and in particular, American disasters: glossy, grand, symbolic.

Through multinational characters including Theo Tattafruge, a plastic surgeon who specializes in gender reassignment, Muhta Saad, a spice trader, and Juanita Blaize, a pop star, Rinaldi (The Jukebox Queen of Malta) paints a complex, compelling portrait of the ways in which we flirt with the American Dream. His maybe a more desperate picture than we’d like to see, full of loneliness and longing, but it has a melancholy power that’s strangely memorable.

COMIC-NOVEL

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