Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem


  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 24, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375724834
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375724831

I finished Motherless Brooklyn last evening. Reading it slowly proved to be a futile effort. Once you’ve passed the midway point there’s no way to put on the brakes.

I can now officially report the book’s quality never wavers, start to finish.  Any worry there’d be a sag at the 3/4 point (my complaint with a huge number of contemporary books) was completely unfounded, and in fact the 3/4 point was every bit as exciting as all the other quarters.

Lionel Essrog is one of the most inspired characters in contemporary fiction. I’ll go ahead and put that out there. His determination in the face of his challenges is inspirational, and even if it was completely impossible for me not to laugh at many of his outbursts, that didn’t diminish the respect I had for his character. Rather, it endeared him to me even more. Jonathan Lethem had me completely in the palm of his hand the whole way through, and Lionel is probably the biggest reason he was able to achieve that feat so easily.

Motherless Brooklyn reminded me, in some ways, of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. In both books a heavily challenged person is attempting to solve a mystery. I enjoyed both books, which probably says a lot about my love of characters who overcome physical/mental obstacles by sheer force of will in order to accomplish their goals. I enjoy these characters largely because their complexity ensures a surprise around every turn. As a reader, that keeps me on my toes and interested, and both Jonathan Lethem and Mark Haddon have the knack for creating just such a character.

So, that’s Book # 3 for me, Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. And I really have to give it the full Five Blue Stars.

7 thoughts on “Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

  1. Jenclair, I’m always reluctant to hand out a full five blue star rating this early in the year, but there was no avoiding it with this book. It’s a great way to start the year but I worry about other books measuring up. I always must be worrying about something!


  2. Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed it on through to the end. I was quite fond of this book too and am not sure why I haven’t read any more by him. Will have to try to find some soon.


  3. I was looking at another one of his yesterday at B&N, but didn’t buy it. It was the one with “fortress” in the title. It’s also set in Brooklyn, but without Lionel I don’t know how interesting that setting would be to me. I don’t really know New York at all and don’t gravitate toward books set there. But MB was so good…. So maybe.


  4. Ah yes, The Fortress of Solitude. I almost bought that one once myself. The title comes from Superman, his icy get away in the north, and I am very curious if it would be as good as MB. I went through a spell were I loved books set in New York, but haven’t read any in awhile. I still have a couple in my TBR.


  5. Heather, that’s it! I thought it was a Superman reference but blanked on the exact title. Before I read it I’ll have a look around at the reviews to see if it sounds like I’d like it. Despite living in a major urban area I don’t always like urban books. Go figure.


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