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A dazzling novel from one of our finest writers—an epic yet intimate family saga about three generations of all-American radicals
At the center of Jonathan Lethem’s superb new novel stand two extraordinary women: 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 precocious and willful daughter, Miriam, equally passionate in her activism, flees Rose’s influence to embrace the dawning counterculture of Greenwich Village.
These women cast spells over the men in their lives: Rose’s aristocratic German Jewish husband, Albert; her cousin, the feckless chess hustler Lenny Angrush; Cicero Lookins, the brilliant son of her black cop lover; Miriam’s (slightly fraudulent) Irish folksinging husband, Tommy Gogan; their bewildered son, Sergius. Flawed and idealistic, Lethem’s characters struggle to inhabit the utopian dream in an America where radicalism is viewed with bemusement, hostility, or indifference.
As the decades pass—from the parlor communism of the ’30s, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, ragged ’70s communes, the romanticization of the Sandinistas, up to the Occupy movement of the moment—we come to understand through Lethem’s extraordinarily vivid storytelling that the personal may be political, but the political, even more so, is personal.
Lethem’s characters may pursue their fates within History with a capital H, but his novel is—at its mesmerizing, beating heart—about love.
From the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly
On the one hand this novel is an exploration of leftist NYC from the inside out. This satirical, stream-of-consciousness, novel depicts the complicated interiority of communist-tinged intellectuals of the last fifty years. On the other hand, it is a quirky, but poignant history of Rose Zimmer, the Red Queen of Sunnyside Queens. Rose is the unwitting progenitor of a dozen characters whose lives intersect at odd points and veer off into interesting directions and their individual sagas form a satisfying novel that chronicles with raucous irreverence a real, postmodern dilemma: how does one find meaning in the spiritual wreckage of a heartless capitalist economy?
- Category: Literary
- Published: Sep 10, 2013
- Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
- Print Length: 384 Pages
- Language: English