Broken River begs to be devoured in ecstatic gulps, compulsively barreled through in a blur of prestige-worthy pathos and meta-fictional tomfoolery. At once a family drama and a crime caper, a haunted house story and a coming-of-age tale, a fantasy and a farce — in essence, a novel possessed of the ability to juggle chainsaws and chew gum at the same time. J. Robert Lennon is a nothing short of a consummate, multifarious storyteller with panache to spare. Recommended By Justin W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The most inventive and entertaining novel to date from "a master of the dark arts" (Kelly Link)
A modest house in upstate New York. One in the morning. Three people — a couple and their child — hurry out the door, but it's too late for them. As the virtuosic and terrifying opening scene of Broken River unfolds, a spectral presence seems to be watching with cold and mysterious interest. Soon the house lies abandoned, and years later a new family moves in.
Karl, Eleanor, and their daughter, Irina, arrive from New York City in the wake of Karl's infidelity to start anew. Karl tries to stabilize his flailing art career. Eleanor, a successful commercial novelist, eagerly pivots in a new creative direction. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Irina becomes obsessed with the brutal murders that occurred in the house years earlier. And, secretly, so does her mother. As the ensemble cast grows to include Louis, a hapless salesman in a carpet warehouse who is haunted by his past, and Sam, a young woman newly reunited with her jailbird brother, the seemingly unrelated crime that opened the story becomes ominously relevant.
Hovering over all this activity looms a gradually awakening narrative consciousness that watches these characters lie to themselves and each other, unleashing forces that none of them could have anticipated and that put them in mortal danger. Broken River is a cinematic, darkly comic, and sui generis psychological thriller that could only have been written by J. Robert Lennon.
"An intimate portrait of the violence we do to each other, about family and art and the scars of unspeakable acts. Broken River blisters and rips and ultimately soars. I loved it." Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls
"Compelling from the first page, and then smart, sophisticated, suspenseful and satisfying throughout — Broken River is a first-class ride." Lee Child
"[An] inventive, darkly comic novel... Broken River is a riveting psychological thriller which is as absurd as it is wonderful." Chicago Review of Books
"Lennon alternates the scenes of his coalescing crime drama with asides involving the Observer a silent substanceless embodiment of the all seeing omniscient narrative viewpoint that is powerless to prevent the snowballing misinterpretations and misunderstandings each character sees from his or her own perspective. The result is a finely tuned tragedy whose well developed characters are all the more sympathetic for the inexorability of their fates." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
J. Robert Lennon is the author of eight novels and two story collections. His fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, Granta, Harper's Magazine, Playboy, and The New Yorker. He lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches writing at Cornell University.