The good people of New York, apparently, are bold, funny, vivacious and spirited. They are moms, daughters, lovers, friends, students of all ages, boyfriends and husbands. They feel what human beings everywhere feel, do what people everywhere do. They are as flawed as life itself, yet we love them nonetheless.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Knopf

At least, this is what can be deduced from Thisbe Nissen”s premiere novel, “The Good People of New York.” And she should know.

Although Nissen was born and raised in the Big Apple, growing up in a city so diverse and full of life is surely not the only reason why she succeeds so well at creating memorable, realistic characters. These are characters that we wish the best (and the worst) for, that we grow up with, and that we identify with.

Perhaps no, most definitely Nissen”s adeptness at writing is part of her training. After graduating from Oberlin College with an English major and Creative Writing concentration, she attended the prestigious Iowa Writer”s Workshop, home of literary greats such as John Irving. And although “Good People” is her first novel, it is not her first published work Nissen also penned the award-winning short story collection “Out of the Girls Room and Into the Night,” and has written short stories for several magazines.

Beginning with the apples-and-oranges courtship of native New Yorker Roz Rosenzweig and transplanted Nebraskan Edwin Anderson, the novel moves seamlessly through their love affair, the birth of their daughter Miranda, their subsequent divorce, and the carnage following it. From Roz dating Miranda”s orthodontist to Edwin”s move back to Nebraska to marry a small-town nurse, and then back to Miranda”s adolescent bouts with older men, the book cooks up plenty of plot twists.

Cleverly, the reader is often not told the resolution of some of these twists did Miranda lose her virginity at the tender age of thirteen, for example? We never truly find out. Instead of being unsatisfying, this narrative technique proves only to stimulate the reader”s imagination (and thereby uniquely tailors the book to each reader”s desired tastes).

What can one expect to see and hear at Nissen”s reading on June 28? The good people of Ann Arbor will have to wait and see and perhaps even use a little imagination.

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