Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment

by Aimee Z.

The cover of Heroic Measures shows the cityscape of New York, fading from deep gray-blue at the top to a reddish-orange near the bottom, with the title, author's name, and a silhouette of a dachshund in white superimposed in the foreground.

Septuagenarians Ruth and Alex Cohen have made a momentous decision: they are going to sell their Lower East Side flat in one of the Big Apple’s most desirable locations. According to their realtor, they’ll easily net a million dollars, which is enough to retire with their precious and equally senior dachshund, Dorothy. In their tiny kitchen, Alex wearing his hearing aids and Ruth in her serious bifocals study the open house listing due to appear online in a matter of hours as two calamitous events occur.

Over the radio, a news alert interrupts the broadcast. A large truck in the Midtown Tunnel has overturned. Traffic in Manhattan is suddenly gridlocked. The driver, now deemed a suspected terrorist, has fled, heightening domestic security all the way to Queens.

Ruth and Alex smirk and shake their heads. Ruth, in her heyday, and Alex by association, was once considered a Communist threat; a schoolteacher in her perky beret and peep-toe pumps who’d somehow found herself on the FBI’s secret enemy list.

But their moment of musing about the past is soon shattered with the appearance of Dorothy. The little dog lets out an ear-piercing howl, and to her parents’ horror, Dorothy’s bottom goes out. A race to the vet ensues, and despite the snarl of traffic, news anchors on the scene, and a now significant anti-terrorism military component, Ruth and Alex manage to get Dorothy to the pet ER.

There, they learn that Dorothy has slipped a disc and needs surgery. Devastated, Ruth and Alex return home to their landline ringing. Their euphoric realtor informs them that a bidding war is already brewing on their apartment. With their dog in the hospital, Ruth and Alex must now contend with an open house.

A parade of prospective buyers pours in the next day. Trend-setting young gentrifiers with way too much money, they tramp through the dated apartment speaking offhandedly about gutting everything – especially Alex’s beloved art studio. One woman in boots, eager to feel the apartment’s embrace, plops down on the couple’s bed, lotus-style, waiting to see if her restraints of self-centeredness dissipate.

It’s all completely hilarious, but it’s Dorothy who steals the show. In the hospital, recovering from surgery, she suspects the vet and his team of conspiracy – all over a mysterious wee-wee pad! Heroic Measures takes readers on a clever, satisfying journey, so wry and wicked, at one point I laughed out loud – startling my own dogs.

Heroic Measures is the basis for the film 5 Flights Up, starring Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton and available as a DVD from HCLS.

Aimee Z., now retired, was part of the adult research staff at HCLS East Columbia Branch. She lives on a lake with her two labs, Dixie and Belle, who enthusiastically approved the content of this review in exchange for a peanut butter and jelly biscuit.

One thought on “Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment

  1. This book wasn’t on my radar, although I know I’ve seen the cover before. Thanks, Aimee, for all the insightful book reviews you’ve shared on the blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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