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Motherless Brooklyn [Paperback]

Jonathan Lethem
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (161 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars four stars for the Tourette twist June 19 2004
By A Customer
Otherwise, I would just give it two or three stars. But if Lethem does not have Tourette's, he still does an unbelievably authentic job of giving us its quirks - especially the stuttering, bizarre free association wordplay - in an eccentric and likeable character. I wish there had been another character I wanted to root for, however.
The detective storyline is pretty standard. What distinguishes it is its main character whose disorder threatens to defeat his attempts to solve a murder case at every turn. This may not be enough to keep some readers' interests, but if you're interested in psychological twists, this one is as impressive as any I've come across. I only wish the same originality had been given to the rest of the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essrog Essgdog Is Good June 13 2004
Lethem has created a sympathetic, intriguing, and wonderfully whimsical alternative to the hard-boiled detective. Lionel Essrog, the tourettic narrator of this short but rich caper is immesenly human, and though most of us will have little in common with his experience or his illness, let alone his predicament in this story, I found a little of myself in all of his foibles and follies.
Wonderful, witty, well-crafted. Wobbly, weegly, wear witchess.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly unusual May 11 2004
By A Customer
Lionel Essrog is the center of attention in this riveting novel by Jonahtan Lethem--he (Lionel, not the author) has Tourette's Syndrome, that unfortunate and uncontrollable desire to shout, bark, and curse. As if that weren't enough premise, add to this the fact that poor Lionel ends up working for a small-time mobster who runs a limo service. I was expecting something along the lines of a Pahalinuk novel with extreme situations and characters (and I did get that), but I also got something more: great storytelling and a great plot. There are several novels out nowadays that deal with "handicaps" of some sort. This must the going thing. Haddon's THE CURIOUS INCIDIENT deals with autism, and McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD deals with a child who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, among a host of other ailments, as well as being an abused child. So why not a novel about Tourette's syndrome? One shudders to think what these materials would be like in less capable author's hands, but in all three novels, the ideas work, especially in MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. I can't recommend this book enough. It's just one of the most unusual things I've read in years.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A minor masterpiece of character May 7 2004
In another writer's hands, the concept of a narrator suffering from Tourettes', and trying to solve a murder could have been a gimmicky mess. Instead, Jonathan Lethem's MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN turns out to be an intriguing, original and fascinating novel. Lethem is not afraid to take chances and his gamble paid off here. While I agree that the mystery itself is secondary to the character studies (and a drop disappointing), the resulting glimpses into the short-circuiting manners of a Tourettes' victim is a minor masterpiece in character study. In fact, the other realm described here, the motherless world of orphans, is equally brilliant and convincing. Give this book a read--I highly and hugely recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting twist on the detective novel May 2 2004
This book is hard to categorize. Is it a detective novel? A satire of the detective novel? A literary journey through the complexities of language? Who knows, and the book is so thoroughly entertaining that it really doesn't matter what the authors real motives are.
The narrator, Lionel Essrog (a name just dying for a Tourettic tic) has Tourette's Syndrome, which makes him a wonderful and unique storyteller. And the reader can't help but laugh out loud at his unexpected yellings and shoulder taps. I kept expecting Lionel to become annoying or to find a cure for his tics, but Lethem gratefully keeps him true to character the entire book. The word associations and spoonerisms that Lionel erupts with will be interesting to anyone who likes wordplay.
The detective part of this novel comes in when Minna, a low status criminal, is knifed. It's up to his gang, the Minna Men, of which Lionel is one, to figure out whodunnit. What occurs is a tongue-in-cheek crime story that actually manages to be a pretty good mystery in the end.
This is overall a pretty strange book in that it was never what I expected it to be. Hilarious, mysterious, tragic, and touching. How did Lethem manage to do all this in just over 300 pages? I'll be reading another Lethem very soon....
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2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing March 24 2004
By A Customer
I'm surprised to see that this book has generally gotten such positive reviews. I was excited to read it after hearing the author discuss his new book on the radio, but I found it to be ... not very good at all. The writing is fine, and the Tourettes thing is kind of well done, but the plot is absolutely terrible - a sophomoric pastiche of hard-boiled detective stories. I read the whole thing only because it was a quick read and I hate to put down a book, but I really didn't care what happened in the end, and then the ending turned out to be the worst part of the book. Not sure why this author is getting such hype. Perhaps his new book is better.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Spectacuarly un-science fiction Nov. 9 2003
If you have not read any of Jonathan Lethem's other books, this one might turn you off to his Science Fiction abilities. Amnesia Moon is what essentially dragged me into his other books, including this one. This book has less of a twisted plotline than some of his others (for instance, Girl in Landscape); however, the Tourettes is a beautiful touch and I applaud him for it. I gave Motherless Brooklyn three stars for two reasons: One: I much prefer the Sci-Fi touch of his other books, and Two: I have not finished this yet and thus far feel the need for only three stars.
It's a good book if your not expecting him to be in outer space or anything, and it's wonderful if you're into psychology. I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't loved his other books, for the talent would go unnoticed in this one.
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