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Dissident Gardensby Jonathan Lethem
Synopses & Reviews
A dazzling novel from one of our finest writers—an epic yet intimate family saga about three generations of all-American radicals
At the center of Jonathan Lethem’s superb new novel stand two extraordinary women: Rose Zimmer, the aptly nicknamed Red Queen of Sunnyside, Queens, is an unreconstructed Communist who savages neighbors, family, and political comrades with the ferocity of her personality and the absolutism of her beliefs. Her precocious and willful daughter, Miriam, equally passionate in her activism, flees Rose’s influence to embrace the dawning counterculture of Greenwich Village.
These women cast spells over the men in their lives: Rose’s aristocratic German Jewish husband, Albert; her cousin, the feckless chess hustler Lenny Angrush; Cicero Lookins, the brilliant son of her black cop lover; Miriam’s (slightly fraudulent) Irish folksinging husband, Tommy Gogan; their bewildered son, Sergius. Flawed and idealistic, Lethem’s characters struggle to inhabit the utopian dream in an America where radicalism is viewed with bemusement, hostility, or indifference.
As the decades pass—from the parlor communism of the ’30s, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, ragged ’70s communes, the romanticization of the Sandinistas, up to the Occupy movement of the moment—we come to understand through Lethem’s extraordinarily vivid storytelling that the personal may be political, but the political, even more so, is personal.
Lethem’s characters may pursue their fates within History with a capital H, but his novel is—at its mesmerizing, beating heart—about love.
From the Hardcover edition.
"Lethem's new novel, fast in pace and large in theme, takes place in the confines of the planned community of Sunnyside Gardens, Queens, and follows the devolution of a family of female radicals. There is matriarch Rose, exiled from her communist party due to her associations with a black police officer, and daughter Miriam, who rebels against Rose's overbearing influence to partake in the counter-cultural movement in Greenwich Village. This audio edition is brilliantly performed by Mark Bramhall, who captures the sardonic defiance that permeates Lethem's narrative and, by extension, the mentalities of Rose and Miriam. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a sentimental book and Bramhall's tone perfectly captures the harsh environment in which these two women exist. Still, while Bramhall is equally adept at capturing the anxieties and angry sarcasm of both mother and daughter, one wonders why Random House didn't employ an actress. Despite the presence of numerous male characters, the women are the central and strongest figures in Lethem's book. A Doubleday hardcover. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
JONATHAN LETHEM is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including Chronic City, The Fortress of Solitude, Motherless Brooklyn, and the nonfiction collection The Ecstasy of Influence, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. A recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, Lethem’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and The New York Times, among other publications.
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