Broken River by J. Robert Lennon

Broken River by J. Robert Lennon (Graywolf Press)

Broken River opens with a man and a woman attempting to flee their home in the middle of the night with their child. They never make it down the driveway, and their murder is never solved. For years, the house sits empty, until a philandering sculptor named Karl, faced with an ultimatum from his novelist wife, Eleanor, moves from Brooklyn to Broken River to start fresh. I, like Karl, Eleanor, and their twelve-year-old daughter, Irina, was drawn in by the mystery of what happened to the house’s previous inhabitants, but I finished this book three days ago and I’m still thinking about it. Broken River kind of blew my mind.

The family is disconnected, each confined in their own private worlds. The cast of characters expands gradually – along with the consciousness of a spectral narrative presence referred to as the Observer – and the novel becomes a kind of examination of cause and effect and the interconnectedness of human events and behavior. The whole thing is somehow extremely satisfying despite its seeming lack of interest in answers. It’s a literary thriller that just works, on the level of plot and on the level of keenly observed and subtly rendered human connections. Lennon captures the relationships between these characters, especially Karl and Eleanor and Irina, with nuance and precision.

I found this book on the staff picks table at Books are Magic in Cobble Hill – their recommendations are consistently on point. You can buy Broken River at your local indie bookstore or online here.

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