Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dissident Gardens

Identity. I took me longer to read Jonathan Lethem’s novel, Dissident Gardens, than any other book in the past decade. That’s not because I’m a slow reader: I read two hundred other books since I first opened this novel eight months ago. What kept me constrained in rushing along with this one is that Lethem’s sentences are worth close attention, and the plot creates no sense of urgency. He explores three generations of a family and uses multiple narrators to present their story. Each of the key characters in the novel is radical in some way, and each develops identity in the context of family and as individuals breaking away from family. The radicalism is something of an inheritance, and provides strength to the bonds across generations. We look to novels to tell us something about human nature, and Lethem does that in this quirky novel, and he does it by constructing sentences that are worth reading slowly and more than once. Readers who appreciate literary fiction are those most likely to enjoy this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Dissident Gardens from

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