Excerpt from Invisible City by Julia Dahl, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Invisible City

A Rebekah Roberts Novel

by Julia Dahl

Invisible City by Julia Dahl X
Invisible City by Julia Dahl
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  • First Published:
    May 2014, 304 pages

    Mar 2015, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

My phone rings. It’s my roommate, Iris.

“Where are you?” she asks. Iris and I both majored in journalism at the University of Central Florida, but she works in a cubicle on Fifty-seventh Street and I’m never in the same place for more than a couple hours.

“Right by home,” I say. We share an apartment just a few blocks away. This is the first time I’ve ever been on a story in Gowanus. “The canal.”

“Jesus,” says Iris. “Hypothermic yet?”


“Can you still come?” We have plans for drinks with an amorphous group of alums from Florida tonight.

“I think so.” My shift is over around five.

“Will Tony be there?”

Tony is a guy I’ve been hooking up with. He’s very much not Iris’s type, but I like him. Iris likes metrosexuals. The guy she’s sort of seeing now has highlights and the jawline of a Roman statue. Tony is very not metrosexual. He just turned thirty and he’s balding, but he shaves his head. I wouldn’t call him fat, but he’s definitely a big guy. We met on New Year’s Eve at the bar he manages, which also happens to be the bar where UCF alums meet for drinks and where Iris and I ended up after a weird party at someone’s loft in Chelsea. He kissed me across the bar when the clock struck midnight and then we spent the next two hours kissing. He’s an amazing kisser. And despite his decidedly less than polished appearance, Iris seems to like him. Iris is the beauty assistant at a women’s magazine. We haven’t had to purchase shampoo, nail polish, lipstick, soap, or any other grooming toiletry since she started last summer.

“I think so,” I say.

“You don’t know?”

I don’t want to get into it, but I didn’t return his last text—and Tony isn’t the kind of guy who’s gonna blow up a girl’s phone.

“I’ll be there by six,” Iris says.

“Me, too,” I say.

I tuck my phone back into my coat pocket and put my face to the steam rising from my coffee. Bodega coffee almost always smells better than it tastes.

The glass door rings open and two Jewish men walk inside, carrying the cold on their coats. I know they’re Jewish because they’re wearing the outfit: big black hat, long black coat, beard, sidecurls. It’s not subtle.

The men walk to the back corner of the convenience store, and the tall one whispers fiercely at the other, who looks at the floor in a kind of long nod. Behind them by a few steps is a boy, a four-foot clone of the men, in a straight black wool coat, sidecurls, a wide-brimmed hat. His nose and the tips of his fingers shine like raw meat. He is shivering. The two men ignore him, and he seems to know not to get too close to their conversation. He stamps his feet, laced tight in neat black leather oxfords, and shoves his little hands into his pockets.

I scoot back to my perch between the coffeepot and the chip rack, where I can see the press vans in the parking lot of the gas station and the cop cars clustered at the scrap yard’s entrance across Smith Street. I’m monitoring motion. As long as the players—the rest of the reporters and photogs, the cops in uniform, the cops in suits—are just standing around, I can assume I’m not missing anything. If any group begins to move, I have to, too. If I had to choose, I’d rather be on a story like this than the one I just got off in Chinatown. In Chinatown, a reporter—especially a white reporter—is in hostile territory. Certain kinds of people love to talk to reporters—I can get an old Italian man in Bay Ridge or a young black mother in Flushing to gab and speculate about their neighbors, the mayor, their taxes, just about anything I come up with as long as I’m writing down what they say. This gonna be in the paper? they ask me. Immigrants are tougher. The Trib doesn’t have a reporter who speaks Chinese, and when you’re asking people already predisposed not to trust you if they know about the Internet café across the street selling ten-dollar blow jobs to middle school boys, without any of their language, you give them nothing but reasons not to say a word.

Excerpted from Invisible City by Julia Dahl. Copyright © 2014 by Julia Dahl. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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