Jonathan Lethem, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the MacArthur Fellowship whose writing has been called “as ambitious as [Norman] Mailer, as funny as Philip Roth, and as stinging as Bob Dylan” (Los Angeles Times), returns with an epic yet intimate family saga.
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 equally passionate and willful daughter, Miriam, flees Rose’s influence for the dawning counterculture of Greenwich Village. Despite their differences, they share a power to enchant the men in their lives: Rose’s aristocratic German Jewish husband, Albert; her feckless chess hustler cousin, Lenny; Cicero Lookins, the brilliant son of her black cop lover; Miriam’s (slightly fraudulent) Irish folksinger husband, Tommy Gogan; and their bewildered son, Sergius. Through Lethem’s vivid storytelling we come to understand that the personal may be political, but the political, even more so, is personal.
About the Author
Jonathan Lethem is the author of nine novels. A recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Lethem has published his stories and essays in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and The New York Times, among others. He lives in California.
This novel is a hilarious and satirical look at American political ideologies through the lives of a single mother and her daughter living in a Queens NY neighbourhood. Rose Zimmer and her daughter Miriam are bright, strong-willed and absolute in their beliefs, but struggle with the personal toll of failed political movements and the obstacles to doing good. Loss and missed opportunities are buoyed by great comical lines, but I chose this book for its political message – that lives and utopian dreams have consequences.