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Bigger than Life: A Murder, a Memoir

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  69 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Nelson Gross led an outsized life—one in which he played many roles: father, brother, husband, politician, entrepreneur. When he was killed by a couple of teenagers in a botched abduction and robbery, the murder shook his family in predictable and terrible ways. For his daughter, Dinah Lenney, the parent of her own young children, the loss sparked a self-reckoning that led ...more
Hardcover, 236 pages
Published March 21st 2007 by University of Nebraska Press (first published March 1st 2007)
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Tarn Wilson
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
After his murder, Lenney processes your relationship with her complicated father - and family. The writing is honest, vulnerable, tender, wise and so skillfully written. She is a master of the graceful sentence. I particularly admire her sophisticated structure.
Lisa Roney
Jun 26, 2015 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more than I did, and I've been trying to sort out why it disappointed me at least a little bit. The book's starting point is the murder of the author's father, a former power-broker in Republican politics and restaurateur who was fairly remote in the author's life. Though the murder gives the author her cause for writing, she wasn't that close to her father and certainly not to his second wife and son by that marriage. The story focuses mainly on the ins and outs of he ...more
Superstition Review
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Dinah Lenney’s Bigger Than Life: A Murder, A Memoir is both cleverly written and moving as she reflects on her father’s murder, the aftermath, and the complex relationships between the two father figures in her life—her biological father and her stepfather. Lenney uses a mix of present and past tense to both reflect on the events and take her audience back in time to the moments they occur, allowing readers to experience the events alongside her. The technique creates an emotional connection bet ...more
Esther Bradley-detally
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I thought bigger than life a good book, it's about a murder, her father's and a memoir; and it all fit. I found her book because I went to Vroman's for a local reading of students from the Master of Professional Writing program at USC. Ms. Lenney is a member of the core faculty. she is co-author of Acting For Young Actors, and is on core faculty for Bennington Writing Seminars, and also the Rainier Writng Workshop. Dina Lenney is no slouch and she read from her latest book, which I hope will com ...more
Forty Something
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
As a non-American, I wasn't sure I'd like this book, which had been recommended to me by American friends. Turns out I couldn't put it down.

I enjoyed the clear, precise writing the most. Of course, Mr. Gross is at the center of the book, but many family members were terribly interesting too.

Just made me wonder, how do you tell such personal stories without alienating your family members, let alone not getting sued? I suppose Ms. Lenney must have made her peace with the potential consequences (
Black Elephants
May 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I couldn't help but think how brave the author was to explore her father's murder, the trial of his attackers, her emotions and the affect it had on her family in this novel. What I found even more interesting is the evolution in writing—this is the author's first novel, and I'm familiar with her work now. Her book is lovely and sincere, and it demonstrates how it laid the foundation for the writing skill that is of the present.
Jul 17, 2008 rated it liked it
My highest praise is for the elegant structure of this book and its delicate weave of personal themes. I was impressed by the challenge the author took on, of deconstructing her psychic conflicts within the dramatic context of this awful incident, her father's murder. Lenney owns up to her own obsessions, and I had no trouble understanding them.
Amy Kitchell-Leighty
Mar 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This book is centered around the tragic event of her father's murder. Her father seemed extremely interesting but it was hard to connect with the daughter. It picked up around chapter 27, but was very slow until then.
Today I finally admit I will never finish this book. Usually I am able to stick it out to the end; there's always *something* I want to find out about. Not this one. I loved Dinah Lenney in person, she's a vivacious, sparkling speaker. But this book - for the most part - does not reflect that.
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strong literary voice. Great job capturing families in all their glory and messiness, the self-doubts we’re all susceptible to, the neediness, the narcissism, the grace, the goodness. Nicely structured with authentic and lively prose. An excellent read about grief and tragedy and being human.
Tina Schumann
Aug 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Lenney teaches in my MFA program, a GREAT writer. If you are in to memoir this book is for you. Riviting, touching, insightful, and all told in wonderful language.
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with parents
Lenney is a beautiful, funny, deeply human writer. Though her story centers around an extraordinary event, it is full of details recognizable to anyone who has grown up in a mixed-up family.
Apr 07, 2008 rated it liked it
Good Memoir, especially in learning how to deal with a loss.
Sep 05, 2013 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2013-new
Giselle Rodriguez
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In a word: brilliant. More thorough review to come.
Apr 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
If you're father is murdered, you probably have the makings of a memoir. But Lenney goes beyond the hype and gives a thoughtful look at both her life and her parents' lives.
Apr 24, 2015 marked it as to-read
Festival of Books 2015
Nicola Waldron
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brave and beautiful.
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Jul 17, 2012
Sarah Lowe
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Nov 09, 2012
Mandy Nadyne
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Aug 14, 2009
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Jun 28, 2008
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Apr 26, 2011
Apr 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Manages to tell a unique story while touching on many universal insights. Crisp writing.
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Apr 10, 2016
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Aug 24, 2010
Jill Kandel
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Barrington Smith-Seetachitt
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Jul 15, 2008
Susan Merrell
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Jan 05, 2013
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Dinah Lenney wrote Bigger than Life: A Murder, a Memoir, and co-authored Acting for Young Actors. Her prose has been published in many journals and anthologies, among them The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Agni, Creative Nonfiction, The Washington Post, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and Brevity. She serves as core faculty for the Master of Professional ...more
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