Ev­ery­thing Is Bor­rowed

Nathaniel Pop­kin

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - JEFF FLEISCHER

New Door Books (MAY) Hard­cover $24.95 (227pp) 978-0-9995501-1-3

In his new novel Ev­ery­thing Is Bor­rowed, Nathaniel Pop­kin looks through the eyes of a mod­ern-day ar­chi­tect to ex­plore how a city’s his­tory can echo through the years. Pop­kin ex­pertly plays with time. His writ­ing is beau­ti­fully lay­ered, and the book’s par­al­lel sto­ries tie to­gether in un­ex­pected ways that keep a seem­ingly sim­ple plot en­gag­ing through­out.

When the story be­gins, es­teemed Philadel­phia ar­chi­tect Ni­cholas Moscowitz is work­ing on a key com­mis­sion from a wealthy real es­tate devel­oper, but he feels lit­tle mo­ti­va­tion to get the job un­der­way. While re­search­ing the his­tory of the site, he learns about an­other Moskowitz who lived there in the late 1800s and made his own mark on the area.

The pre­vi­ous Moskowitz was a rad­i­cal Jewish ac­tivist. He made head­lines for his taboo protests, in­clud­ing a ma­jor one on Yom Kip­pur, and faced jail time for hav­ing anti­estab­lish­ment views at a time when the coun­try feared an­ar­chist threats. Even­tu­ally, he be­came a leader in the same Jewish com­mu­nity he once railed against. His story could be a novel in it­self, but Pop­kin’s treat­ment is even more im­pres­sive.

The present-day Moscowitz be­comes fas­ci­nated with the life of his pre­de­ces­sor, por­ing over lo­cal his­to­ries to learn as much as he can about the man’s ac­tiv­i­ties. At the same time, he thinks back on the ma­jor events of his own life: his failed re­la­tion­ships, old friend­ships that have evolved over time, his feel­ings for his as­sis­tant. Through this process, the ac­tivist Moskowitz and his ex­pe­ri­ences are in­te­grated with the ar­chi­tect’s own past, and the com­mis­sion to cre­ate a build­ing be­comes fraught with ques­tions about eras­ing the past ver­sus pre­serv­ing the city’s ar­chi­tec­tural bones.

The story moves smoothly be­tween the present day and the events Ni­cholas reads about. Pop­kin cre­ates an al­most dream­like feel as he re­veals the layers of his story, pil­ing them atop one an­other just as cities build their fu­tures upon the re­main­ders of their pasts.

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