Tuesday, May 23: J. Robert Lennon joins us from Ithaca, New York, for a reading of his new novel Broken River. 7pm.
“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
“Broken River is a novel with multiple identities: it's a ghost story, a crime story, a coming-of-age story, a story about love and family and fiction itself. What is astonishing is how well all these elements work together, how they intertwine as seamlessly as the fBroken River ates of Lennon's characters. As good as fiction gets.”—Ben Winters
“Like a Coen Brothers film, Broken River is a strange world unto itself—it does not seek you out, but waits for you, beating on without and even despite you. It is the work of one of today's great unheralded masters of fiction writing at his most compelling and most innovative yet. Somehow, Lennon has achieved something ingenious and unimaginable: he has made the reader complicit in a tangled narrative of cause and effect, a witness to a double homicide, bystander to troubled lives, and co-conspirator in the worst revenge plot imaginable. All the while, you, guilty reader, are helplessly bound by your own reality, forever separated by the page from the world within this book that is as near perfect a literary thriller as could ever be written.” —Andrew Unger, Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park
J. Robert Lennon’s cinematic, darkly comic novel Broken River opens with a terrifying scene: in the middle of the night, a couple and their child flee their modest home in upstate New York. But it’s already too late for them. As this violent panorama unfolds, a spectral presence—the Observer—watches with cold and mysterious interest. Before long, the house lies abandoned and falls into disrepair, until 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 their lives anew. While 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 more than a decade earlier. As the ensemble cast grows to include Louis, a hapless carpet salesman who is haunted by his past, and Sam, a young woman newly reunited with her jailbird brother, secrets surrounding the unsolved murders come to light. All the while the Observer looms—a gradually awakening consciousness—as the narrative threads of this brilliant psychological thriller weave dangerously together.
J. Robert Lennon is the author of eight novels, including Familiar, Castle, and Mailman, as well as two story collections. His fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, Granta, Harper's, Playboy, and the New Yorker. He lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches writing at Cornell University.