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3.09 of 5 stars 3.09  ·  rating details  ·  520 ratings  ·  130 reviews
Castle by J. Robert Lennon is a mesmerizing novel about memory, guilt, power, and violence

In the late winter of 2006, I returned to my home town and bought 612 acres of land on the far western edge of the county." So begins, innocuously enough, J. Robert Lennon's gripping, spooky, and brilliant new novel. Unforthcoming, formal, and more than a little defensive in his encou
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Graywolf Press (first published 2002)
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The story in this book was interesting, fairly entertaining, and had the potential to be explosive, but instead it merely fizzled along with just enough action to keep me reading. And although I don't mind unhappy or unclean endings, the ending to this book was unsatisfying, rushed, and lame.

The writing in the early stages of the story felt compressed and clumsy. The main character spends the first half of the book wondering why he's doing the things he's doing even though he's fully aware of h
I was tightly gripped through most of the book, reading it in almost a single continuous stretch. At first the character's affected, awkward voice was jarring, but as as the story progressed that voice and the narrator's forced, fragile self-deceit became enthralling. Unfortunately, as so many other reviewers have already said, the novel falls apart toward the end - the final chapters explain too much, too literally and too implausibly, so that the evocative, ambiguous richness of the rest of th ...more
This took me forever to read because of the narrator, who rambles on endlessly about everything. The gist of the story here is that Eric Loesch returns to his hometown of Gerrysburg, New York after years away because of a widely publicized bad career move. He buys a house and some land out in the middle of nowhere and then discovers that he doesn't own a portion of land in the middle of the woods. Even weirder is that the owner's name is blacked out on the papers he has received.

Once Eric begin
Of all the books I've read that have been described as "Kafka-esque," this one definitely is, or at least starts out like it. Straightforward, journalistic, about an alienated narrator who goes back and forth between being hurt and offended by the people around him and hurting and offending them. Then it goes more regressive-squishy, with a digression at the end about torture in the military that I think definitely weakens the book overall. In sum, though, I thought the book was very interesting ...more
Jenny Shank

Book review: "Castle"
by Jenny Shank

Posted: 05/30/2009 09:34:00 AM MDT

J. Robert Lennon's new novel "Castle" begins simply: "In the late winter of 2006, I returned to my home town and bought 612 acres of land on the far western edge of the country." The narrator, Eric Loesch, has come back to Gerrysburg, the town where he grew up in upstate New York, and for many chapters that's all the reader learns about his past. Lennon treats us to a good dose of Loesch'
Matt Briggs
First 10 pages of this book are okay .. and then the next first 150 are amazing. The book works on withheld mysteries which can often feel like a kind of trick, but the absence of any clue to the narrator's story becomes creepy, vivid, and mind bending. The book degrades significantly when these mysteries are revealed. The writing uses the narrator's stuffy self-conscience to both ironic and oddly self-revealing ends, but once things are shown the story becomes a knowable trope. The book's conne ...more
I don't quite know what to make of this book. At first I had hopes of a spupernatural twist, a la House of Leaves, but that was not to be. "Psychological suspense" doesn't cover it, either. The story could just about be described as "psychological" but it lacked any "suspense" elements. The language is quite formal and the protagonist, Eric Loesch, is not especially likeable, but in an oddly dispassionate way. One does not seem to be required to have any strong feelings about him or the things t ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

It's always such a crushing disappointment to see a novel start great and then peter out by the end, like is precisely the case with J. Robert Lennon's latest, Castle; because I gotta admit, the first two-thirds of this deeply unsettling book is one of the best spooky stories I've ever read, which like th
J. Robert Lennon's fourth novel starts out in a familiar territory, but quickly strays from the path, following signs and markers from ghost stories and fairy tales. Eric Loesch has returned to rural upstate New York to renovate a house on a large parcel of land he has purchased. Although it's not clear why Loesch has come home, it quickly becomes apparent that something is very wrong. The forest behind his house beckons, but it rebuffs Loesch's efforts to explore it with inexplicable hostility. ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Suzanne Shuping
I liked this book until the end. The end made me feel ripped off. It was unbelievable to me. Both the millitary parts (my husband is in the army, and been over there, and we know what it is really like), and the main character's eventual killing of his teacher, for which there was no good explanation for after so many years. The seeming supernatural element went nowhere either. Had that element been expanded and woven in to the story instead of being a useless detail, the book could have been mu ...more
What an extraordinary piece of work this is. When our first-person narrator, Eric, arrives in a rural area of upstate New York to buy a dilapidated house near a stuffy small town, we assume this is going to be one of those business-as-usual tales of dire events in the past coming home to roost in the present. In a sense, this is indeed what happens, but not at all could it be said that Castle is business as usual.

We soon become aware that Eric is no flawless hero, and perhaps no hero at all. His
I picked up this book based on a favorable NPR recommendation. I have to say that at first I found the story very gripping; to be more specific, I felt uneasy and often downright terrified. There is some excellent suspense in this book, and plenty of mystery to pull you along.

That said, I found the mystery's resolution to be implausible, cloudy, and generally disappointing. The ending ruins the rest of the book.
This. Book. Was. Awful. Do not read this book. Do not pick up this book, because you will think that maybe it can redeem itself and you will be wrong but you will finish the book and then your brain will hurt and you will have nothing to say except that this book is awful.
Richard Bon
This book is a psychological journey from start to finish, and its implications reach deeply within and all around us, from the nuclear American family to the treatment of Iraqi POWs by American soldiers. J. Robert Lennon has accomplished something truly special.

Protagonist Eric Loesch's relationship with his father, revealed gradually throughout the novel, mirrors that of many a real life 1950s-1970s American father/son relationship, at least those about which I've read or been told in which th
I wish I could give this book more stars but it's just not there. :o( There is so much plot potential that is wasted on characters not thoroughly fleshed out and an ending that is disjointed and ultimately unsatisfying. Others have indicated that the main character, Loesch, is not very likeable but I think he is true to his upbringing having been subjected to an edgy psychologist who had theories of character formation that were off the beaten path at the very least. Compare him to Augusten Burr ...more
Read this for a book group. Very different than what I anticipated. It started a little slow. The author included so much detail about how the man was fixing up his house that I was sure there had to be some tie-in with the story later on, but if it did I totally missed it. It seemed like he was just trying to fill pages, not really moving the story along. However, once I got into it, the story was intriguing. I didn't feel like it wrapped things up very well, but left a lot of loose ends. It wa ...more
Jennifer Taw
Disturbing and ugly, incomplete and ultimately disappointing, the best bit about this book is how perfectly Lennon begins it, with the central character describing with perfect equanimity other people's reactions -- revulsion, curiosity, anger, distrust -- to himself. Despite its deterioration as it shifts from slow burn to rapid explanation to heavy-handed and hard-to-swallow morality tale, the book is atmospheric, evocative, and eerie with wonderful moments of pure tension, especially in its f ...more
Apr 20, 2011 Michael rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: My worst enemies
I've thought many times what I would say for a review of this book. I can't emphasize how much I loathed reading this. It was 21 chapters of pure hell to be stuck "in the head" of the first person narrative of the protagonist. I wanted to scream and many times found myself audibly scoffing at him, shaking my head. How sad for me. Here's some great reasons to avoid this garbage:

1) The guy it's about is offended by anybody and everybody. Most pages are filled with his emotional tirades of how some
Vivek Tejuja
Alright! This writer and this book completely blew me away.I did not know what to expect on reading the synopsis, however when I started reading the book, I was in awe.

The book peels itself like an onion – with layers and more layers to it. The protagonist, Eric Loesch is a loner – the typical brooder with poor social skills. He buys an old house with nothing around it for miles – just surrounded by plain good ol’ land. He decides to remodel it. Life goes on as usual, until Mr. Lennon decides t
Rhonda Pumphrey
I was pleasantly surprised how into this book I got. I don't know if pleasant is exactly the right word though, because this book set me on edge. I ended up reading it in 3 days. Couldn't put it down. I spent the first half of the book waiting for the main character to come unglued and go "postal" on someone. I spent the 2nd half of the book having a great deal of sympathy for him instead. Through my reading from page 1, it's very hard to either hate or really like this guy--he's so "anal" in hi ...more
I was in the mood to read something different and try out a new author so I picked up Castle based on a positive review. The book started out a bit slow, but with some promise of developing into an enthralling mystery/thriller. Although the protagonist was anything but likable (a hyper-masculine, socially awkward, military type) and the setting grim (a rundown farm house in the middle of nowhere surrounding by an impenetrable forest), I was nevertheless hooked within a few chapters. The mysterio ...more
I got this book through Amazon Vine as an uncorrected proof; it actually isn't released until April '09

This book was not what I expected it to be. It starts as a chilling mystery. Eric moves to a secluded town and purchases 600+ acres of land there. He works to renovate the house and eventually learns that there is a small portion of land in the middle of his property that he doesn't own. Here starts the mystery on his journey to find out exactly what is out there on that land and who owns it. A
downloaded audio by Iambik for review
ARC for review by publisher

Listened 2/16/12 - 2/23/12
3 Stars - Recommended to readers who don't mind the spooky stuff turning out to be not-so-spooky
Audio Download (approx 10 hrs)
Publisher: Iambik / Graywolf Press
Narrator: Mark Douglas Nelson

I dig suspense as much as the next guy. Gimme a book with some creepy old farmhouse full of strange noises at night, surrounded by over 600 acres of dense dark woods, and you've got yourself one happy little reader. The o
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lennon is one of those authors whose books I always get excited about, although I don't always love them. I think I've read all of them (six?) and they're all very different, which in itself is fascinating. This one was creepy as hell. Eric Loesch returns to his hometown, buys a house and a piece of land and starts exploring the surrounding forest. The townspeople aren't thrilled to meet him, which is understandable since he is haughty and aggressive. His parents died a violent death, and someth ...more
Eric Loesch arrives in his former hometown in upstate New York, Gerrysburg, with the purpose of buying and fixing up a run-down house. There is an air of mystery about Loesch and the reader immediately gets a sense that there is more to Loesch than meets the eye. He is defensive with the locals and is obsessed with exploring the woods that aren't technically part of his property. As his time in the town proreses, Loesch is forced to confront the events of his past from his choldhood to time spen ...more
Jessica Woodbury
I have to say, I normally hate the label "psychological thriller" because there's so rarely anything "psychological" about them. But it's the perfect genre for this book.

The structure is unusual, but effective. The protagonist, Eric Loesch, is mysterious and lonely. We follow him through a series of unexplained decisions that don't seem to make much sense. But in the second half of the book, gradually things trickle out until everything is understood.

Perhaps the reveals come a bit too quick, bu
This book was nothing like I expected. I was curious to understand what was going on and that kept me reading through the first half. It began to seem the protagonist had some issues from his past and I wanted to know why. There were some unexpected dark twists in the second half and I couldn't put it down then. It is unique and somewhat disturbing in the end.
Apollo's Crow
My first from Lennon. He does the "unreliable narrator" thing extremely well, and creates an intriguing and complex character in Loesch. Some of the revelations and twists did not feel as smooth as they could have been, but that may have been due to the time between readings. Overall, a good thriller with a creative premise.
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED. Man who finds fort in woods behind house [s] 6 48 Apr 06, 2015 01:39PM  
Ending 1 26 Jun 16, 2009 08:25AM  
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J. Robert Lennon is the author of a story collection, Pieces For The Left Hand, and seven novels, including Mailman, Familiar, and Happyland. He holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and has published short fiction in The New Yorker, Harper's, Playboy, Granta, The Paris Review, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. He has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequ ...more
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“People, in my long experience, want to talk. They may believe they wish to keep secrets, and they may believe that they are capable of doing so. But the truth is that secrets exist to be revealed; and it is usually very easy to find the combination of words that will cause them to emerge.” 6 likes
“My sister stood up, trembling, and I must admit that I expected her familiar sneer to have taken its usual place on her face. But all I could find there was unhappiness and fear. Fear of my reaction, perhaps. But when a person has lived a life like hers, a life of promiscuity, rootlessness, and substance abuse, resentment and fear tend to replace all reasonable and proper emotions, and the world becomes your enemy.” 4 likes
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