Motherless Brooklyn Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Motherless Brooklyn

Narrator Lionel Essrog is an orphan who has Tourette's syndrome (the often uncontrollable urge to shout nonsense, touch every surface in reach, and rearrange objects). In the 1970s he and a small group of other boys were "borrowed" from St. Vincent's Home in Brooklyn by Frank Minna, a local small-time crime boss and fixer, for odd jobs.
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Now, some years later, they're the "Minna Men," who work out of their mentor's "detective agency/limo service" but mostly receive stolen goods, smash up things when ordered to, and occasionally serve as weak guards. But one terrible night Frank Minna is fatally stabbed and thrown into a dumpster, and Lionel must become a real detective.

His search for Frank's killer leads through Frank's bitter wife Julia, who leaves town fast; the strange storefront Zen Buddhist temple that was Frank's last stop before he died; and ultimately to a small town on the coast of Maine where powerful Japanese business interests have revived the local fishing industry due to their willingness to pay big money for urchin eggs. And through it all, Lionel must try to control his Tourette's.

This terrific, engaging literary noir, published in 1999, surely sports one of the strangest private eyes ever seen.
The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus

Chapter Analysis of Motherless Brooklyn

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   1980's-1999 Kids growing up/acting up?    -   Yes Internal struggle/realization?    -   Yes Crime & Police story    -   Yes Story of    -   catching a killer Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Age group of kid(s) in story:    -   high school Something wrong upstairs/downstairs?    -   physical illness/disability Parents/lack of parents problem?    -   orphan story Wild kid(s)?    -   committing crimes Brain/Body disability?    -   mental illness

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   thief/con artist Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American) Unusual characteristics:    -   Mentally ill


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast City?    -   Yes City:    -   New York Small town?    -   Yes Small town people:    -   hostile, like Gomer Pyle on steroids

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   touching of anatomy    -   actual description of hetero sex Lot of foul language?    -   Yes Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Jonathan Lethem Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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