Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
Lionel Essrog has lived his whole life in Brooklyn, New York. He is an orphan who was picked out of St. Vincent’s Home for Boys, along with three other residents. Frank Minna put them to work and gave them a purpose in their life. Now Lionel and one of the other Minna Men is on lookout for Frank. But they are unable to prevent Frank from being killed.
Lionel has Tourette’s Syndrome, and is called “Human Freakshow” by Frank and the others who know him. Doing his best to ignore the compulsions that drive him, he has to find out what happened to his “savior”. Minna had told his men they are working in a detective agency that would also work as a car service when they had no other work. The Minna Men knew they were involved in more, probably connected with the Mob. Lionel wants to know which connection turned on Frank.
Soon Lionel is avoiding his fellow “detectives” as he tries to discover who he can trust. He returns to the zendo where Frank first separated from them. The monks there are hiding something or someone. He investigates one of the exculsive office building in Manhattan. He is followed, chased by a group of men who are ordered to frighten him off. He is called in to an interview with the Brooklyn godfathers. Lionel attends a zen class – rather difficult for a Tourette’s sufferer to stay quiet during meditation. And Lionel finds himself leaving New York for the first time in his life.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to read (ok, listen to, I had an audio copy) Motherless Brooklyn. I couldn’t remember why I had decided to read it, and the book cover and first chapter didn’t convince me, either. But Lionel’s Tourette’s mind kept me interested. The book is first person narrative, so gives a wonderful picture of the compulsions of the Syndrome. The novel’s story competes with Lionel trying to control his own tics as he goes through his investigation. Both kept me reading.
I found the book uneven, but overall an enjoyable read. I recommend Motherless Brooklyn to readers who like a mystery that keeps them guessing and to anyone who wants to get a fictional insight into a misunderstood Syndrome.
Notice: Strong indecent language, Suggestive dialogue or situations