Book review: Drop Out by Neil D. Ostroff is not about hopelessness

Book review: Drop Out by Neil D. Ostroff is not about hopelessness

When I first came across the novel Drop Out by Neil D. Ostroff I knew I’d get around to reading it eventually. Although the subject matter was a bit heavy the cover indicated to me that it wouldn’t leave readers feeling hopelessly dismayed. And I was correct.

Drop Out is the story of Nathan Cruz a young man who has been living reclusively in Key West since the events of September, 2011 when he was tragically trapped in one of the Twin Towers and badly burned as a result. Nathan was able to help many to safety, but could not save his family.

For more than ten years Nathan has live a life void of as much human contact as possible. All of that changes upon meeting Miriam Kanter, in the midst of a hurricane. Their friendship is altogether desperate, unlikely and lovely.

I was immediately impressed with the details that Ostroff lends to describe the events of September 11. He writes with detail but neither pity nor debasement, the struggle of thousands of people clamoring to get out of the building alive.  It seems, even though we watched from the comfort of our homes on television, we were spared much of the torturous desperation of the victims that day and the sense of immediacy that only comes from being there. Well, Ostroff takes you there.

The specifics in the book give  new brilliance to the tragedy and the transformation of ordinary humans into desperate souls fighting for their own existence. With unflinching detail he describes from Nathan’s point of view bodies plunging  to their death in an effort to escape a certain fiery demise. The specifics in this case I believe were necessary in order to get a sense of the load of guilt and agony the protagonist has been shouldering since that day. You empathize his plight. You understand his withdrawal from society. In the wake of so many deaths you get why Nathan feels like neither a hero nor a survivor. He is simply existing. Miriam, on the other hand, challenges Nathan on every front and causes him to look again at his summation of his life. Miriam sees him differently than he sees himself: “She turned and looked at my face but not at my scars.”

My major issue with this book is that some parts seem rushed. And it could have been lengthier. It could have gone into broader detail, the depth of his relationship with Miriam and perhaps the commonalities they had with each other beyond their physical limitations and small talk. I would’ve loved to have seen deeper character development throughout. Overall, this was a good read and I am excitedly anticipating Ostroff’s next work.

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