I’ve been meaning to read something by Jonathan Lethem for a while so when a reading companion thrust Motherless Brooklyn into my hands, I knew it was meant to be.
I first opened this book at around 3 in the morning one night, after finishing up a book that I didn’t particularly care for (and drinking several tumblers of whiskey). I intended to just read a few pages and call it a night. 25 pages later, I was captivated by the book and had to force myself to crawl into bed.
I’ve heard Lethem described as a unique voice and if this book is anything to go by, that’s certainly true. There was quite a motley cast of characters and I was introduced to many memorable fictional folks that I won’t soon be forgetting. Most notable, of course, is the protagonist, one Lionel Essrog, who witnesses the murder of his boss / mentor / father figure within the first 10 pages of the book. He spends our remaining time together trying to track down the killer, all while ridiculous hijinks ensue.
When I discovered a few pages in that Essrog has Tourette’s, I was a little concerned about how that would be handled. I’m not one who finds it particularly funny to ridicule or sensationalize the disorder of another. My concern was mostly that Mr. Lethem would use Essrog’s disorder as a punchline and would simplify his condition into some stupid cliche. Luckily, I was wrong, and while there were plenty of humorous situations that came as a result of his disorder, it did not define him and I felt it was handled in an honest way.
While I did very much enjoy this book and found it to be a fun and fast read, it fell short of being excellent because I never felt completely immersed in the lives of the motherless in Brooklyn, nor was I particularly moved or touched by some of the more emotional scenes.
I would recommend this book to someone who is interested in a unique spin on the classic detective novel and someone who doesn’t require an emotional connection in order to love a book.