Synopses & Reviews
Alexander Popper can't stop remembering. Four years old when his father tossed him into Lake Michigan, he was told, Sink or swim, kid. In his mind, he's still bobbing in that frigid water. The rest of this novel's vivid cast of characters also struggle to remain afloat: Popper's mother, stymied by an unhappy marriage, seeks solace in the relentless energy of Chicago; his brother, Leo, shadow boss of the family, retreats into books; paternal grandparents, Seymour and Bernice, once high fliers, now mourn for long lost days; his father, a lawyer and would-be politician obsessed with his own success, fails to see that the family is falling apart; and his college girlfriend, the fiercely independent Kat, wrestles with impossible choices.
Covering four generations of the Popper family, Peter Orner illuminates the countless ways that love both makes us whole and completely unravels us. A comic and sorrowful tapestry of memory of connection and disconnection, Love and Shame and Love explores the universals with stunning originality and wisdom.
"Vibrant and captivating, this novel about three generations of the Popper family of Chicago resonates with truths about human nature. Orner has a unique ability to create dramatic momentum from a series of punchy vignettes. We meet the central character, Alexander Popper in 1984, when he is 13, and the novel chronicles events in his life even as it looks backward at the marriages and domestic contretemps of his grandparents and parents. Seen against the casual corruption of Chicago politics and historical events in the country at large, the narrative is an acutely observed sociological picture of Jewish middle-class families from the 1930s through the 1970s. Popper's paternal grandparents endure an unhappy marriage but maintain social pretenses. His parents' marriage founders when his father, too old to be drafted at 39, enlists in WWII 'to get out of the house' (his wartime letters are interspersed). Popper himself finds the woman he loves at the University of Michigan, but their union undergoes a typically contemporary twist. Orner's (Esther Stories) surefooted control of his narrative gradually discloses information that conveys emotional and physical atmosphere. As the Poppers move into better neighborhoods, subheads with the family's changing addresses identify time and place and cultural milieu. Two themes sometimes comic, often rueful intersect throughout: the secret shames, frustrations, and humiliations that each character endures, and the search for love that blossoms and then fails in each generation. A richly layered, intimate picture of a distinctive but also typical family enduring life's vicissitudes and stoically carrying on. Line drawings by Eric Orner, the author's brother." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
PRAISE FOR LOVE AND SHAME AND LOVE
"Orner anatomizes family relationships with precision in a novel that spans three--and touches on four--generations....He approaches his narrative with a nonlinear chronology, moving back and forth from Seymour's wartime notes to Bernice, to Alex's adolescent peccadilloes, to Alex's letters to Ella. The result is a masterful, multifaceted novel. Readers will find both love and shame in abundance in Orner's teeming fictional world."--Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Peter Orner was born in Chicago and is the author of two widely praised books, Esther Stories and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo. Orner is also the editor of two books of nonfiction, Underground America and Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and The Best American Short Stories, and has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes. A 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, Orner has taught at the University of Montana and the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa and is a faculty member at San Francisco State University. He lives in San Francisco.