cover image Dissident Gardens

Dissident Gardens

Jonathan Lethem, read by Mark Bramhall. Random House Audio, unabridged, 13 CDs, 16.5 hrs., $50 ISBN 978-0-307-94089-6

Lethem’s new novel, fast in pace and large in theme, takes place in the confines of the planned community of Sunnyside Gardens, Queens, and follows the devolution of a family of female radicals. There is matriarch Rose, exiled from her communist party due to her associations with a black police officer, and daughter Miriam, who rebels against Rose’s overbearing influence to partake in the counter-cultural movement in Greenwich Village. This audio edition is brilliantly performed by Mark Bramhall, who captures the sardonic defiance that permeates Lethem’s narrative and, by extension, the mentalities of Rose and Miriam. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a sentimental book and Bramhall’s tone perfectly captures the harsh environment in which these two women exist. Still, while Bramhall is equally adept at capturing the anxieties and angry sarcasm of both mother and daughter, one wonders why Random House didn’t employ an actress. Despite the presence of numerous male characters, the women are the central and strongest figures in Lethem’s book. A Doubleday hardcover. (Sept.)