The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
Nora Eldridge had hopes and dreams, but she put them aside to pursue a practical career and care for an ailing mother. Now her artistic side has been reawakened with the arrival of the Shahid family in her life. Reza, a wonderful student in Nora’s third grade class is exactly what she envisions the son she is never to have would have been. Through an incident at school she meets Reza’s mother Sirena. Sirena is an exotic woman who pursued a career in art and is on the verge of becoming famous. At Sirena’s urging the two women rent a studio together to work on their art. Skandar is the intellectual father/husband Nora enjoys conversing with on long walks home from dinners with the Shahid’s. Nora falls in love with all three and is horribly betrayed by at least one of them.
Nora is a woman alone who seems to be content and then after meeting the Shahids detests being alone. She constantly describes herself as the woman upstairs, alone and forgotten, but not nearly as cool as the madwoman in the attic. She is approaching a mid-life crisis and what happens throws her off the edge. It’s a late in life coming of age story and the study of people who are hard to like, but easy to understand.