The Commuters is a novel composed of intersecting stories about people who live in Los Angeles. From an immigrant garment worker, struggling to exist in an often cruel city, to a lonely foster child, who uses arson to express himself, Klein's novel delicately and deftly probes the inner lives of her compelling cast of characters.
Cheryl gives an overview of the book:
It begins with the babies on the walls. Noelle is taking out the garbage—thinking, as always, that she’s the manager, she shouldn’t have to do this—when she spots the first one: a silhouette of a round, bald child stenciled in black spray paint. Just there, Bhudda-like, above the dumpster, which reeks of late afternoon. She registers it, although it’s not the first graffiti to sprawl across the bright yellow stucco of the café, then goes back inside, where she mentally fires Freddy for the third time that day.
She sees the second one on the side of the Japanese market at the corner of her street in West LA. Which means the baby has made it across town, all the way from Silver Lake. These mysterious icons are usually confined to a small geographic area, the stomping ground of a gang or some art school kid. She supposes.
She points the market baby out to Katie, who says, “I wonder if it’s a call for—better day care or something.” Katie is cute when she’s literal. She always thinks of people first, which makes Noelle with her love of places feel vaguely heartless.
Soon they seem to be everywhere that isn’t especially wealthy or polished, or maybe they’re there too and it’s just Noelle who is not. The babies wave with mitten hands from unimportant corners of gas stations, crouch in the smooth concavity of tunnels, bump the alley-sides of trendy La Brea shops. It occurs to Noelle that they could be a movie promotion. Enough hip-hop children have grown up and gotten marketing jobs that such campaigns are starting to appear. But there’s not so much as a website stamped on a baby’s limb telling her where to go to find out what she should buy. After careful analysis, she chalks them up to genuine mystery.
Cheryl Klein’s first book, The Commuters: A Novel of Intersections, won City Works Press’ Ben Reitman Award. Her novel Lilac Mines will be published by Manic D Press in 2009. Her fiction has also appeared or is forthcoming in journals including ...