Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs is a true work of literature as Nora Eldridge, the main character narrates to the reader about her life. She is a forty-something third grade teacher, never married, with no children - someone she believes is invisible, easy for people to forget or not notice.
When she gets to know the Shahids she becomes caught up in their lives. There beautiful son, Reza, is in Nora's class at school, and through talking with the mother, Sirena, the two strike up a friendship and begin to share an art studio together where they work as well as develop their relationship. However, it is easy to see that this friendship is perhaps a bit lopsided, with Nora's life centering around the Shahids as time passes. Although she is aware of the fact that the friendship isn't reciprocated in the same way, she is unable to stop her attraction to this family, swept up as she is by them.
And of course, as things unfold in lopsided relationships, Nora is disappointed by a variety of events that take place, where she is finally forced to realize that the Shahids lives do not center around her the way hers centers around them.
A few surprises caught me off guard and Messud's writing is worth reading every last word. The Woman Upstairs is a novel that is driven by its characters and not so much the plot, but provides an honest look at one woman's solitary existence and her need to be recognized and necessary.