Motherless Brooklyn

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Motherless Brooklyn
Motherless Brooklyn.jpg
Author Jonathan Lethem
Country United States
Language English
Genre Detective novel
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 0-385-49183-2
OCLC 40723751
813/.54 21
LC Class PS3562.E8544 M68 1999
Preceded by Girl in Landscape
Followed by Kafka Americana

Motherless Brooklyn is a Jonathan Lethem detective story set in Brooklyn and published in 1999. Lethem's protagonist, Lionel Essrog, has Tourette syndrome, a disorder marked by involuntary tics. Essrog works, along with Tony, Danny and Gilbert, who call themselves the Minna Men, for Frank Minna—a small-time neighborhood owner of a "seedy and makeshift" detective agency—who is stabbed to death.[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]

The New York Times wrote:[4]

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. wrote:[1]

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. ^ 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. Retrieved November 29, 2009. 
  4. ^ Mobilio, Albert (October 17, 1999). "What Makes Him Tic?". The New York Times. Retrieved November 29, 2009. 

External links[edit]