Book Reviews of Motherless Brooklyn

Motherless Brooklyn
Motherless Brooklyn
Author: Jonathan Lethem
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ISBN-13: 9780375724831
ISBN-10: 0375724834
Publication Date: 10/24/2000
Pages: 336
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.

3.9 stars, based on 159 ratings
Publisher: Vintage
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

17 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on
Helpful Score: 5
An absolutely pitch-perfect post-modern noir. Letham's prose is deeply fractured Brooklyn suffused neo-Chandlerian genius. Great writing, great characters, great set pieces. It's a new classic, a New York masterpiece.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 164 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I can't believe this isn't a movie, or a TV series, or at least hasn't spawned a series of books. *googles Lionel Essrog* Oh.

Still, because Lethem is a serious writer, I guess we won't get sequels. I would have loved Lionel Essrog and the Case of the Secret Sliding Door, or Lionel Essrog and the Cannibal Who Liked Cannabis. Why? Because the main character is one for the ages. He's a Tourettes sufferer, flunky for a smalltime operator, now thrust into the role of detective. It's wonderful. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the creator of Monk was influenced by this book.

OK, so read the book before the movie comes out! This book is great!
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 16 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
It's bad enough being raised in an orphanage in Brooklyn..but to be an orphan with Tourette's who falls into a gang of petty hoods as he grows...ah! THEN you have a story! The plot's twists are matched by the Tourettic twists of the hero's language. An intriguing tale with a truly odd assortment of characters and absolutely delicious writing. Quite a few gems of wordplay made me laugh aloud.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 289 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn is an ingenious mix of hardboiled fiction and the literary novel. Lionel Essog's world is turned upside down as his boss Frank Minna is fatally stabbed. Part father figure, part small time Brooklyn mobster, Frank took up Lionel and three other boys from the St. Vincent's Home for Boys to become Minna Men, foot soldiers in his detective agency cum car service. This whodunit story which so captures the essence of New York, especially now-gentrifying parts of Brooklyn, is greatly enhanced by Lionel's Tourettic outbursts. Marvels of wordplay, they add character to Lionel's already insightful narration during his investigation. Lethem excels in plot, characterization, and language—the only detail I take issue with is that White Castle burgers come in cardboard boxes, not wrappers.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 774 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A really well-done mystery, featuring a protagonist with Tourette's Syndrome. Lionel is an orphan, but when he and 3 other boys are picked at an orphanage to help out a man named Frank Minna, doing odd jobs, his life is changed... Minna's a small-time mobster, but he becomes a father figure to the naive Lionel. And when, years later, Minna is murdered, it's Lionel's unexpected persistence that will lead him to solve the crime - but also lead him into danger from more sides that he even knows of...
The book is really believable - surprisingly so, for one featuring the Mob, a shady Japanese corporation, and a mysterious Zen school... all ties in with violent crime... and it really gives one insight into the inner life of someone suffering from this ailment.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on
Helpful Score: 1
Motherless Brooklyn was heartbreaking. Lethem has an unbelievable grasp of language and dialogue. You feel for the protagonist as a human being, as a person who has real feelings and thoughts and, as someone who has a clear idea in his head of exactly what he must do. Lethem is an amazing writer and every one of his books is worth reading.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 37 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I love this book. There are few books that I will read over and over and fewer movies that I will watch after the first screening. I am all about story and this one -- the tale of a "private detective" (mobster) with Tourette's syndrome who has to solve what happened to his boss/caretaker is a great one! But many readers rightly praise what Lethem does with language. As a writer, that is just the icing on the cake for me. You have to read this -- even if you don't like detective stories. I can't gush enough about it.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 26 more book reviews
A mobster type befriends four orphans and uses them for various things over the years. The main character has Tourettes, and when his mentor is murdered he is determined to find the guilty party. The book focused a little too much on his Tourettes, although it did lend a lot of humor to situations. Still, he was kind of pathetic also. I can only give this one an meh.. Probably forget all about it in six months.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 224 more book reviews
This was a great book, interesting and well-written. I would recommend it.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 20 more book reviews
Orphans in Brooklyn's St. Vincent's Home for Boys, recruted by a small-time mobster Frank Minna's limo service cum detective agency. The story becomes a detective story trying to solve Minna's murder. Lionel Essrog is the main character having Tourettic impulses driving him to bark, count, and rip apart our language in startling and different ways. During his trip into the underworld he discovers his mentor was really just a low level thief and thug in the shadowy world of the Brooklyn underground.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 347 more book reviews
I'm a heavy listener of audiobooks. When pushed to declare one "the best", Frank Muller's narration of this book would be "it". He captures Lionel's frantic Tourette's-driven pace perfectly! That having been said, others who've read the print version report they loved the story, too. Highly recommended, with slight disclaimer that it starts off slowly with background info.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 32 more book reviews
Under the guise of a dective novel, the author has written a more piercing tale of investigation, one revealing how the mind drives on its own wheels within wheels.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 6 more book reviews
Not bad, quick, easy read.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 287 more book reviews
Great read. Fun, funny, and heartbreaking. My first Lethem book, and definitely not my last!
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 26 more book reviews
Tale of orphan with Tourettic impulses that drive him to bark, count, rip apart our language in original ways.
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 410 more book reviews
Very "noir"...
reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on + 43 more book reviews
I didn't read all of this book, but I orignially got the book because it deals with Tourette's syndrome, and my cousin has that disease. It is in perfect condition except within the first twenty pages has a couple of marks on a paragraph or two, but that is the only marking.

Here is the summary:
Pop quiz. Please complete the following sentence: "There are days when I get up in the morning and stagger into the bathroom and begin running water and then I look up and I don't even recognize my own _." If you answered face, then your name is obviously not Jonathan Lethem. Instead of taking the easy out, the genre-busting novelist concludes this by-the-numbers string of words with toothbrush in the mirror.

This brilliant sentence and a lot of other really excellent ones compose Lethem's engaging fifth novel, Motherless Brooklyn. Lionel Essrog, a detective suffering from Tourette's syndrome, spins the narrative as he tracks down the killer of his boss, Frank Minna. Minna enlisted Lionel and his friends when they were teenagers living at Saint Vincent's Home for Boys, ostensibly to perform odd jobs (we're talking very odd) and over the years trained them to become a team of investigators. The Minna men face their most daunting case when they find their mentor in a Dumpster bleeding from stab wounds delivered by an assailant whose identity he refuses to reveal--even while he's dying on the way to the hospital.

Detectives? Brooklyn? Is this the same Lethem who danced the postapocalypso in Amnesia Moon? Incredibly, yes, and rarely has such a departure been pulled off with this much aplomb. As in the "toothbrush" passage above, Lethem sets himself up with the imposing task of making tired conventions new. Brooklyn accents? Fuggetaboutit. Lethem's dialogue is as light on its feet as a prize fighter. Lionel's I found this summary somewhere else, but it sums the book up well: Tourette's could have been an easy joke, but Lethem probes so convincingly into the disorder that you feel simultaneously rattled, sympathetic, and irritated by the guy. Sure, the story is a mystery, but Motherless Brooklyn could be about flower arranging, for all we care. What counts is Lionel's tic-ridden take on a world full of surprises, propelling this fiction forward at edgy, breakneck speed.