Sabra Embury's Reviews > Motherless Brooklyn

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
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's review
Dec 18, 2011

really liked it
Recommended for: people who like Brooklyn

It doesn't look it, but Motherless Brooklyn is a swift trip into the multi-faceted borough which has been made over from a mugger's playground, to a hipster's paradise in the last ten years (thanks to Giuliani). It's swiftness is derived by Lethem's keen goading of narrative. The maestro's pacing is also kept in check, due to well placed fermatas taking shape in rows of triple asterisks.

It's obvious Lethem's a master of language, more than say: style, or dialogue; he's also master of control. This is perhaps how Lethem can render the right amount of complexity in this--mostly straight-forward mystery, to give it depth, aside from banking on the trainwreck nuances of his protagonist, Lionel Essrog, as a Tourette's addled OCD "freakshow."

Essrog is unloved by most, though a captivating subject, as the ultimate underdog trying to avenge his fallen mentor. As clues are gathered, and the truth unravels, a barrage of suspects are revealed: a Japanese Zen master, a kumquat sucking giant, etc. But to tell too much would ruin the impetus which makes Motherless Brooklyn an unforgettable read.

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