Fishbowl by Bradley Somer

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (304 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

A goldfish named Ian is falling from the 27th-floor balcony on which his fishbowl sits. He’s longed for adventure, so when the opportunity arises, he escapes from his bowl, clears the balcony railing and finds himself airborne. Plummeting toward the street below, Ian witnesses the lives of the Seville on Roxy residents.

There’s the handsome grad student, his girlfriend, and his mistress; the construction worker who feels trapped by a secret; the building’s super who feels invisible and alone; the pregnant woman on bed rest who craves a forbidden ice cream sandwich; the shut-in for whom dirty talk, and quiche, are a way of life; and home-schooled Herman, a boy who thinks he can travel through time. Though they share time and space, they have something even more important in common: each faces a decision that will affect the course of their lives. Within the walls of the Seville are stories of love, new life, and death, of facing the ugly truth of who one has been and the beautiful truth of who one can become.

Sometimes taking a risk is the only way to move forward with our lives. As Ian the goldfish knows, “An entire life devoted to a fishbowl will make one die an old fish with not one adventure had.”

Ian is a goldfish. A goldfish that is falling from the twenty-seventh floor balcony of the Seville on Roxy apartment complex. Now, Ian is a modern goldfish without any of the hang-ups of his contemporary aquatic friends like, say, Troy the snail. So, as Ian falls from the top floor of the Seville, the things he observes aren’t any shock to him, nor are they of much concern, either. But for the rest of us? It’s a little more intriguing than a passing goldfish could ever dream.

The narrative takes us through the lives of a handful of people living at the Seville on Roxy, although it starts and focuses mainly on Connor and his girlfriend, Katie. These two are probably the most mainstream of the group, especially when compared to Claire who works a phone sex line from her apartment, Herman who is homeschooled, and Garth – the construction worker with a secret. Each apartment holds its own story and each story deals with a bit of reality we’d all like to forget or maybe engage with more – life, death, love, mental illness, you name it, it’s at the Seville on Roxy.

I have never so fully enjoyed an entire cast of characters as much I did these. Major props to the author for giving each character a realistic and complete backstory, one that makes you feel invested in that person, even if you only see them once every handful of chapters. Even though Connor is pretty much a hopeless dog, he’s still likable in an odd sort of way, and he’s not always all that easy to like. The author finds a way to point out something good in each character, even when you think there’s nothing of value. Of them all, Garth and Jimenez are probably my favorites, mostly because they’re two people who get overlooked and ignored a lot in their lives.

The concept of this novel was the thing that hooked me. That and the illustration of Ian’s plummet from the top to his eventual resting spot at the bottom that was drawn along the right-hand margin of the book, but this really has nothing to do with the story, it was just an amusing addition to an already amusing novel. Although it was purported to be in the tradition of two books that I had loved, I found Fishbowl to fall more in line with something more Douglas Adams-like than either Garth Stein or Armistead Maupin. Either way, this was one of the most entertaining novels I’ve read all year.


  1. This book sounds fantastic, Cholla! 🙂

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