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Love and Shame and Love

3.33  ·  Rating Details ·  563 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
Alexander Popper can't stop remembering. Four years old when his father tossed him into Lake Michigan, he was told, Sink or swim, kid. In his mind, he's still bobbing in that frigid water. The rest of this novel's vivid cast of characters also struggle to remain afloat: Popper's mother, stymied by an unhappy marriage, seeks solace in the relentless energy of Chicago; his b ...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published November 7th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2011)
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Lolly K Dandeneau
I know, here I go again not liking a novel with good reviews. I won't go into detail about this novel, just explain why I didn't like it.
The writing didn't flow for me. I hated the break up on each page or so. It prevented a flow I prefer in my reading. It felt choppy. It was like hitting every red light on a straight, very long road. The first few pages I thought.. yes, this is good. Then it all just plummeted for me.
It isn't that the writing is bad, it's actually well written, it just does no
Nov 28, 2011 Ammie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Generational stories are rife in literature, from "One Hundred Years of Solitude" up to "Middlesex" and Oscar Wao. So ho-hum, you could say, here are three generations of the Popper family, growing up in and around Chicago, going off to war and work and college, getting married and divorced and pregnant; what is there that might be new to see here? What can you tell me that is different from what all of these other writers have told me?

That could go poorly for any author, but luckily for Peter
Apr 15, 2012 Janet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us-fiction
For me, shame but not love. Shame that I clearly missed whatever it was that has other readers stampeding to give it 5 stars.

Spread out among three generations of the Popper family – four if you count Ella who attains the ripe old age of 6 by novel’s end – the story jump cuts back and forth in staccato vignettes ranging from one to four pages. Despite each voice being unique I found it hard to get my bearings – like being at the ophthalmologist with the rapid switching of various lenses and bein
May 07, 2012 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love and Shame and Love is, at its loving and shameful heart, a Chicago book. An unabashedly my-kind-of-town Chicago book. And as a Chicagoan, I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone who wasn’t from Chicago could possibly catch all the nuances.

Take these lines, for example: “Lunches in the Walnut Room at the Bismarck Hotel. Long dinners with their beautiful wives at Gene & Georgetti or Mike Fish’s. Black-tie nights at the opera, Puccini on the Plains.” The Mayor makes his appearance and Harold
Dec 17, 2011 Telaina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rumpus
I honestly didn't know what to rate this book. It was so beautifully rendered in places and had so much truth in parts that I feel like it deserved four or five stars. But in the end I felt Orner kept us at a distance from the characters and I wasn't emotionally invested in any of them. They were each so miserable in their own way that it gave me no chance to discern between the generations. The beautiful mini chapter at the Tom Petty concert, the few paragraphs about Dukakis and some of the hea ...more
Feb 10, 2012 Angie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I almost gave up on this book several times, but I'm glad I stuck with it to the end. This is the story of several generations of the Popper family. Instead of the sweeping epic you might expect, it's told in short bursts, collections of small, mostly ordinary moments among ordinary people. Most of the big events that happen to the family occur offstage or are referenced obliquely. Some of the set pieces are so well-done that minor characters--a music teacher, an old-boys-club judge--are more me ...more
Anna Pulley
Oct 30, 2011 Anna Pulley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I usually write in all my books, but couldn’t bring myself to do so in Peter Orner’s Love and Shame and Love. It seemed wrong somehow, like taking a Sharpie to someone’s family photo album. Tightly crafted, both in language and structure, Orner’s chapters don’t speak so much as sting. Even when the narrative slaloms back and forth through time and point of view, the shotgun pace keeps you deeply wedded to the characters, their struggles, their almost triumphs. His lyrical, melancholic descriptio ...more
Dayna Ingram
Peter Orner's sentences are beautiful. This is my favorite sentence of the whole book: "Nobody is more determined than a person running away"(p.411). I fully believe that Orner rewrote each sentence in this book at least once in order to get it sounding just right.

Like The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, Love and Shame and Love is told in "episodes." I don't think this technique works as well here; it took me a while to get situated in the multi-threaded narrative. I love the letters from Seym
Dec 20, 2011 A. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love line drawings in novels. No one seems to do it anymore. It was good enough for Dickens, but today's writers don't think they need a few good good pen & ink drawings to move the story along. Orner's book is adorned with beautiful simple drawings at the beginning of each chapter. Many of them are of houses and rooms one is of dead fish washed up on the shore of Lake Michigan. Eric Orner (his brother?) did the drawings and the distinctive cover art.

Orner is trodding upon Bellow territory
Christoph Fischer
"Love and Shame and Love" by Peter Orner is another excellent piece by a very talented writer.
In these snippets, stories and letters about the wider Popper family and Alexander Popper in particular chronology and causality are often eluded in favour of a more impressionist montage of the family history and their bond with each other.

Due to the mother's unhappiness the family moves to Chicago and large parts of the novel feature on the Jewish experience in post-WWII Chicago. As a matter of fact,
Jul 14, 2013 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stands out as one of the more challenging and interesting books I've read lately. Several elements (multi-generational story/strife, the Midwest, immigrant culture) recall Middlesex, yet the book manages to remain original. How does Orner do this? Through the vignette-structured narrative. I waffled for along time on whether or not I liked this non-arc narrative arc; ultimately I came down solidly on the "Yes" side. It has about as much arc as our own lives do, and--ultimately--that is its trium ...more
Kasa Cotugno
This epic novel follows four generations of the Popper family, a Jewish Chicago clan of alternating distinction and normality. It is constructed as if it were one of those drawers into which you have randomly tossed letters, mementos, pictures, matchbook covers -- we all have drawers like that. So that when you delve down into it, your memory is jogged and you are taken back to that time, that place. The story weaves together and all the characters and eras come alive. Chicago itself plays as mu ...more
Dec 01, 2011 Alvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is composed of vignettes and snippets, like a literary mosaic, which is perfect for those of us with impaired attention spans! It contains an amazing sense of place; the city of Chicago looms throughout. It is above all, though, a family saga, and as we get to know the characters (and they are characters in every sense of the word) and learn their dynamics, we see patterns that weave into the civic history permeating the book. Though few characters die off, there is no real conclusion ...more
Sunny Shore
Feb 09, 2013 Sunny Shore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book after thinking I was giving up on it last year. It is a multi-generational story, but different than all I've read. It's basically like real from an album through the written word. The Poppers are an interesting bunch, but no different than any other family. But to hear Peter Orner tell it, it's unique.
Ian Alexander
Dec 14, 2011 Ian Alexander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book doesn't just pick at the scabs, it peels them off. Granted, I am a Jewish lawyer raising a family in Highland Park. Reminds me of Phillip Roth's work in all the best ways. Orner is a beautiful writer. Sad in but in the happiest possible way. A must read.
May 23, 2014 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insightful, beautifully written family saga-in-snippets. The narrative functions much in the same way memory does, in seemingly disconnected vignettes that slowly assemble themselves into a multifaceted collage.
Carol Woodard
Jan 20, 2012 Carol Woodard rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't finish this book...I don't care what the nuns told us in grade school, I just couldn't do it. I think this might be a good book but I didn't like the style of writing...very disjointed and quirky.
Nov 08, 2011 Melissa marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure about this one, but I am intrigued...."....Peter Orner illuminates the countless ways that love both makes us whole and completely unravels us."
Arielle Levitan
Apr 02, 2013 Arielle Levitan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great writing and so much fun to read about HP
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
UGH! Contemporary novelists should never try to channel Richard Brautigan.
Jaime Boler
Dec 01, 2011 Jaime Boler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mobile-press
Family Feasts, Family Feuds: Peter Orner's Love and Shame and Love
By Jaime Boler

Love and Shame and Love by Peter Orner (Little, Brown and Company; 448 pages; $24.99).

Who can we count on to applaud our successes more than our families? Who do we make prouder by our accomplishments than those with whom we share blood ties? And yet who besides our families do we disappoint more by our failures? Who can we shame more than those closest to us? Just in time for the holidays is Peter Orner's novel Lov
Allizabeth Collins

Love and Shame and Love chronicles four generations of the Chicago-based Popper family as they struggle to come to terms with the choices they've made and the repercussions that followed.


Peter Orner is a wonderful American writer whose books, Esther Stories and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, blew me away with the quality and realistic styling of a true storyteller; so when I got the chance to read his newest title, Love and Shame and Love, I had to jump on it. As soon
Sep 01, 2012 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book. I stumbled on it after reading a column in the NYTimes by Orner in which he lamented the decline of his San Francisco neighborhood; a much-loved middle-class family was being driven out because their landlord sold the house they were renting to wealthy buyer. I liked the column, and I saw he had written a novel which got great reviews on Amazon, so I thought I'd try it.

The book is written in very short sections, ranging from half a page to a maximum of about six page
Nov 04, 2011 Derek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed LASAL.

Orner clearly understands the craft of writing - every chapter is filled with descriptions and well turned phrases that sear themselves into your minds-eye and bring you into the scene. And although I'm sure that some readers will have an issue with the interweaving of the vignettes from different generations as soon as I was able to pick up on the characters I began to adapt to this structure and almost eagerly anticipate the continuation of a story line and a character t
Mar 23, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, the title is brilliant and the writing on the sentence level is undeniably gorgeous. And the characters are fully realized into real people who I expect I could find if I go to their most recently listed Chicago address. . . or if I look for them in the Jewish cemetery up north. And I feel like it gets the nuance of Chicago and the northern suburbs down perfectly, making me wonder simultaneously why we aren't living in the city and why we haven't left and moved back to Cincinnati yet. A plac ...more
Jun 05, 2014 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book at a lovely local bookshop in Ann Arbor MI. While my daughter was in the hospital, I took a break and got personal advice and recommendations from the very knowledgeable staff. This book intrigued me as it opens in Ann Arbor and then takes place in Chicago and the north shore. I was familiar with most of the places in the book so, that was why I liked it. I tended to put this book down and come back to it after a period of time, then found it difficult to keep track of the cha ...more
Jul 26, 2014 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really admired how beautifully he uses language in this book and how beautifully he captures a character in just a page or two. The narrative felt loosely held and at times more impressionistic than representative, which is to say that I wasn't always sure what exactly was happening or who was saying the line and had to retrace my steps to the top of the page and reread it. I was still left with such a vivid picture of the emotional lives of five generations of a family and felt the author was ...more
Nov 20, 2012 Beatrice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people from Chicago, readers who like storytelling
For the first few hundred pages, this feels schizophrenic and frenetic with its two page chapters and almost constant change of narrators. But, it never feels out of Peter Orner's control.

So let me gush about him for a minute: Peter Orner is such a good writer! So visceral! So charming! So fun! When he gets a grip on humanity, from precocious child to lonely old man, you see all that talent and it's shocking and wonderful and addictive. Yes, I found myself getting annoyed with the novel's pace,
Wendy Hines
Orner has a unique way of writing that I've really enjoyed. He has a talent for giving you tons of descriptive detail while at the same time giving you as little detail as possible. The perfect words are used to paint a picture in your head as you're reading. I also really liked that instead of being broken into chapters, it's broken into memories. This way, when an interruption arrives, you can easily finish the section you're reading before stopping.

The characters are intriguing and the writi
A charming novel whose short poetic scenes expose a scattering of moments in the family lives of three generations of Chicagoans. Like realizing that vowels aren't really necessary to understand a sentence, this novel made me understand that narrative summary, or the transitions between scenes that compress story time and fill us in on what happened while the scenic doors were closed, isn't necessary for understanding a story. But it also made me understand that I miss these transitions that are ...more
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Peter Orner was born in Chicago and is the author of three novels: Esther Stories (Houghton Mifflin, 2001), The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo (Little, Brown, 2006), and his most recent, Love and Shame and Love (Little, Brown, 2011) which was recently called epic by Daniel Handler, "...epic like Gilgamesh, epic like a guitar solo." (Orner has since bought Gilgamesh and is enjoying it.) Love and ...more
More about Peter Orner...

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“Chicago does not go to the world, the world comes to Chicago! Who needs New York? Who has taller buildings than our tall buildings? Who's got a busier airport than our airport? You want Picasso? We got Picasso, big Picasso. Nobody can make heads or tails of it. It's a lion? No, a seahorse. Looks to me like a radiator with wings. Who gives a damn, people, a Picasso's a Picasso.” 5 likes
“The lake is always east. East is always the lake. Anywhere else he's ever been he never knows where he is.” 3 likes
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