Morningside Heights

Joshua Henkin. Pantheon, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4835-7
Henkin (The World Without You) brilliantly conveys the complexities of a New York City family in this humane, compulsively readable tale. In 2006, Shakespeare scholar Spence Robin, 57, is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and his wife, Pru Steiner, is forced to return his book advance. Their daughter, Sarah, a med student, arrives from Los Angeles on a delayed flight, and Pru wryly reassures Sarah not to worry (“It’ll be good practice for when you’re a doctor. You’ll be keeping people waiting for the rest of your life”). The focus then turns to Arlo Zackheim, Spence’s son from his first marriage, whose vagabond, self-centered mother left him with an emptiness he finds hard to fill. At 15, Arlo came to live with Spence for two years, and the marked contrast between his past and living with an erudite, structured father; a kind stepmother; and a bright younger sister is drawn with humor and insight. Henkin reaches further back to describe how Pru escaped her Orthodox Jewish family in Ohio and landed in grad school at Columbia University in 1976, and shows how Spence was a wunderkind in Columbia’s English department, making the tragedy of his illness particularly poignant. Equally well handled is Pru’s transformation from wife and lover to caretaker—wrenching changes that Henkin conveys without dissolving into sentimentality or cliché, but rather leaving readers with a kernel of hope. This is a stunning achievement. (June)
Reviewed on : 04/08/2020
Release date: 06/15/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-5247-4836-4
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