Another mystery novel. This one was slightly different though, centring on a New York gangster with tourettes syndrome. The guy’s boss has been killed, and he’s out to try and find the killers.
This is a compelling, hilariously funny and insightful book. Lethem writes brilliantly, and manages to keep you engaged with the characters and the narrative with an ease you wouldn’t anticipate considering the subject matter.
The story is based around an orphan called Lionel Essrog, who is found by a petty gangster and taken under wing. Along with three other orphan boys he becomes a one of a “family” referred to as ‘motherless brooklyn’.
I’m compelled to give you an exert from the book it’s so well written, with parts that are equally comic genius and true tragedy.
Here, motherless brooklyn has been taken back to the home of the petty gangster, Minna, and is being fed by his mother, a woman only referred to as a ‘Carlotta’ who never speaks a word. She sells food to all-comers to her front door, and ‘old stove’ in the parlance. They’re young teens, and still only just falling properly under Minna’s sway.
That Christmas Minna had us all up to Carlotta’s apartment, and for once we ate at her table, first nudging aside sauce-glazed stirring spoons ad unlabeled baby-food jars of spices to clear spots for our plates. Minna stood at the stove, sampling her broth, and Carlotta hovered over us as we devoured her meatballs, running her floury fingers over the backs of our chairs, then gently touching our heads, the napes of our necks. We pretended not to notice, ashamed in front of one another and ourselves to show that we drank in her nurturance as eagerly as her meat sauce. But we drank it. It was Christmas after all. We splashed, gobbled, kneed one another under the table. Privately I polished the handle of my spoon, quietly aping the motions of her fingers on my nape, and fought not to twist in my seat and jump at her. I focused on my plate, eating was for me already by then a reliable balm. All the while she went on caressing, with hands that would have horrified us if we’d looked close.
Minna spotted her and said, “This exciting for you, Ma? I got all of motherless Brooklyn up here for you. Merry Christmas.”
Minna’s mother only produced a sort of high, keening sigh.