Synopses & Reviews
Twelve-year-old Toulouse “Tull” Trotter lives on his grandfathers vast Bel-Air parkland estate with his mother, the beautiful, drug-addicted Katrina—a landscape artist who specializes in topiary labyrinths. He spends most of his time with young cousins Lucy, “the girl detective,” and Edward, a prodigy undaunted by the disfiguring effects of Apert Syndrome. One day, an impulsive revelation by Lucy sets in motion a chain of events that changes Tull—and the Trotter family—forever.
In this latter-day Thousand and One Nights, a boy seeks his lost father and a woman finds her long-lost love . . . while a family of unimaginable wealth learns that its fate is bound up with two fugitives: Amaryllis, a street orphan who aspires to be a saint, and her protector, a homeless schizophrenic, clad in Victorian rags, who is accused of a horrifying crime.
"Mr. Wagner delineates his characters with such sympathy and verve, such a sharp eye for the status details that reveal their social standing...that they become palpable human beings....The plot too...might seem thoroughly implausible and unnecessarily complicated, and yet the author's coolly omniscient voice smooths over such doubts..." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Wagner is doubtless a smart, talented writer, but there's a sense in which I'll Let You Go
seems to be lacking in that most essential of writerly virtues, empathy. A monumentally ambitious but ultimately shallow book." Adrienne Miller, Esquire
(read the entire Esquire review
"[Wagner] slices open the self-satisfied bosom of Los Angeles yet again in his third novel, a sprawling family saga that trades the usual mush-mouthed sentimentalities for cascading shards of knife-edged vignettes. A masterful, modern-day fantasy of millionaires and madmen, fathers and sons, reality and dreams." Kirkus Reviews
"This time around, Wagner's observations of L.A.'s filthy rich are curiously torpid, probing little beyond their penchant for purchasing esoteric designer labels....In the end, Wagner's novel is less Dickens than a knockoff of Tom Wolfe...but the fustian language and over-the-top melodrama could translate well to the silver screen." Publishers Weekly
"This novel is an industrious endeavor, which could have been shortened about 100 pages, but there are so many interesting characters dynamically incorporated into its delightfully twisted plot, it's well worth the time." Elsa Gaztambide, Booklist
"A case of mistaken identity concerning William Morris, the Victorian poet and artist, and the Hollywood talent agency of the same name proves crucial in this smart, funny novel." Don McLeese, Book Magazine
"Lavishly imagined....Wagner [dares] his readers to be so callous as to question fiction's ability to imagine the impossible." The Boston Globe
"Wagner's astute portrayal of the follies of the rich is exceeded by his skill at rendering the lives of the poor. The chapters on Amaryllis...are worthy of a latter-day Dickens." The Washington Post
"Combines social satire on the scale of Thackeray's Vanity Fair with a hipness that has become Wagner's trademark." GQ
"A brash authorial voice...tinged with melancholy....[A] sincere exploration of life, death and immortality." People
In I'll Let You Go, a boy seeks his lost father and a woman finds her lost love; and a family of unimaginable wealth learns its fate is tied to those of a street orphan and the courtly, homeless, schizophrenic giant who protects her.
About the Author
Bruce Wagner is the author of the novels Force Majeure and I'm Losing You. He recently wrote and directed Women in Film, adapted from his novel I'm Losing You. Women in Film was shown at the Sundance and Venice film festivals in 2001. He lives in Los Angeles.
Reading Group Guide
1. Toulouse (“Tull”) Trotters glamorous mother, Trinnie, more or less abandons him to the (luxurious) care of her wealthy parents. Ill Let You Go
suggests that she became unhinged when her husband, a schizophrenic, vanished on their wedding night. Do you think Trinnie would have led a life of drugs and dissolution if that hadnt happened? Or did his act simply “allow” for the selfish behavior she was prone to?
2. Why is Tulls grandfather Louis obsessed with having the proper monument designed for his own burial? Discuss the ironies of Louis Aherne Trotters gravesite remaining forever “unbuilt.”
3. In Ill Let You Go, two worlds — those of the rich and dispossessed — are sharply delineated. The children from both societies first converge on a movie set. Why is that significant?
4. Why do you think the orphan, Amaryllis Kornfeld, is so obsessed with becoming a saint? Discuss the brutalization she endured under her mother, and the late revelation that her father was in jail but did not wish to see her.
5. Willm (AKA Topsy AKA Marcus) is first revealed as a homeless man and protector of the orphan Amaryllis. He represents the broken bridge between the mansions of Beverly Hills and the homeless encampments of downtown L.A. Discuss schizophrenia and the commingling of identities: William Morris, the legendary show business agent vs. William Morris, the legendary Victorian designer.
6. Lucille Trotter, Tulls first cousin, is someone who Tull is both attracted to and repelled by. It is significant that she is actually the one who sets in motion Tulls search for his father. Discuss the cruel way in which she informs him that his father is still allive; and the guilt she feels over it, ultimately compelling her to become Tulls advocate in the search.
7. The Trotter children — Lucille, Edward and Tull — dont seem to have been damaged by the great privilege they were born into; nor does Amarylliss spirit appear vanquished by her enormous poverty and hardships. To what extent do you think a child can triumph over his circumstances?
8. Edwards mother, Joyce, is contemptuous of Trinnie for having abandoned her son; yet herself feels tremendous guilt over a kind of abandonment of Edward because of his physical defects. Discuss why Joyce becomes involved with giving anonymous Dumpster babies names and proper burials — and yet cannot seem to overcome her feelings toward her own son, until it is too late.
9. Pullman, the Great Dane, plays an almost magical role in Ill Let You Go. In fact, near the end of the book it is suggested that he, unlike most dogs of his breed, was ageless. Discuss why the author never reveals his death, instead suggesting he simply “moved on.”
10. Tulls grandmother Bluey slowly succumbs to dementia. Was her “hobby” of collecting obituaries and pasting them in scrap albums a harbinger of her own death? Discuss how it was that Bluey came to envision her own obituary among those very pages.
11. Edwards billionaire uncle Dodd took an amazing revenge upon his grade school alma mater. Discuss what it was that enraged Dodd so — and if the details of what happened to him (or what didnt) is, perhaps, the worst kind of punishment a person can endure.
12. Lani Mott, the wife of the baker Gilles, gives lip service to helping children — until forced by circumstance to come to the aid of Amaryllis. Theres a triumphant scene where she acquires the orphans psychiatric records from an arrogant psychiatrist. Discuss Lanis feelings of elation and empowerment, and how they lead her to the decision to adopt.
13. Gilles, the baker, has to overcome initial suspicions that his old friend, the vagrant Willm AKA Topsy, has been involved in more than one heinous crime. Discuss his wifes Lanis absolute resolve that Topsy is innocent — her intuition — vs. Gilles seemingly unlikely reticence.
14. The deaf-mute martyr Jane Scull plays an important role in rescuing Amaryllis from a lurid foster home, where Jane worked and was raped. Jane gives birth to a child who winds up in the Trotter fold. Discuss Janes relationship with Willm, and the manner in which she dies — having killed her assailant.
15. Was Willm better off when he became Marcus Weiner again? And is Willms ending a “happy one”? He does not undergo what might be considered a traditional recovery, yet seems quite content. Discuss his fate, and why Wagner was insistent on employing a narrator who spoke of Ill Let You Gos events with a wry, Victorian lilt.