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Motherless Brooklyn
Motherless Brooklyn
Author: Jonathan Lethem
"Tell your story walking." — St. Vincent's Home for Boys, Brooklyn, early 1970s. For Lionel Essrog, a.k.a. The Human Freakshow, a victim of Tourette's syndrome (an uncontrollable urge to shout out nonsense, touch every surface in reach, rearrange objects), Frank Minna is a savior. A local tough guy and fixer, Minna shows up to take Lionel and thr...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780385491839
ISBN-10: 0385491832
Publication Date: 9/14/1999
Pages: 320
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

4 stars, based on 10 ratings
Publisher: Doubleday
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio Cassette, Audio CD
Members Wishing: 2
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

caviglia avatar reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on
Helpful Score: 6
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.
bup avatar 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 + 289 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
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.
althea avatar 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.
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viva avatar reviewed Motherless Brooklyn on
A detective story narrated by an amateur gumshoe with Tourette's Syndrome, given to bouts of ingenious vocal tics. I found this novel hilarious and touching. And I continue to muse how everyone has a bit of Tourette's.
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 + 224 more book reviews
This was a great book, interesting and well-written. I would recommend 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 + 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.

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