Motherless Brooklyn

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Motherless Brooklyn
Motherless Brooklyn.jpg
AuthorJonathan Lethem
CountryUnited States
GenreDetective novel
Publication date
Media typePrint
813.54 21
LC ClassPS3562.E8544 M68 1999

Motherless Brooklyn is a novel by Jonathan Lethem that was first published in 1999. The story is set in Brooklyn, and follows Lionel Essrog, a detective who has Tourette's, a disorder marked by involuntary tics. Essrog works for Frank Minna, a small-time neighborhood owner of a "seedy and makeshift" detective agency, who is stabbed to death. Together, Essrog and three other characters—Tony, Danny, and Gilbert—call themselves "the Minna Men".[1]

Critical reception[edit]

The novel won the 1999 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction[2] and the 2000 Gold Dagger award for crime fiction.[3]

Albert Mobilio of The New York Times wrote:

Under the guise of a detective novel, Lethem has written a more piercing tale of investigation, one revealing how the mind drives on its own "wheels within wheels." Unlike the stock detective novel it shadows, the thriller in which clarity emerges on the final page, Motherless Brooklyn immerses us in the mind's dense thicket, a place where words split and twine in an ever-deepening tangle.[4]

Gary Krist of wrote:

Motherless Brooklyn has a few problems—including some cartoonlike stock characters and one scene near the end that flirts with maudlin sentimentality—but it works far better than the average hip postmodern novel in terms of sheer emotional impact. Because Lethem never lets the metaphorical and linguistic possibilities of his narrator's illness overshadow his immensely appealing humanity, we really care about Lionel and his search for his mentor's killer.[1]

Film adaptation[edit]

A film version written, produced and directed by Edward Norton began production in February 2018. It will star Norton, Willem Dafoe, Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Alec Baldwin.[5]


  1. ^ a b Krist, Gary (September 23, 1999). "Jonathan Lethem: Motherless Brooklyn". Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  2. ^ "All Past National Book Critics Circle Award Winners and Finalists - Page 2". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  3. ^ "The CWA Dagger Awards". The Crime Writers' Association. October 27, 2008. Archived from the original on July 23, 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  4. ^ Mobilio, Albert (October 17, 1999). "What Makes Him Tic?". The New York Times. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  5. ^ Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin & More Board Edward Norton’s ‘Motherless Brooklyn’

External links[edit]