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Publisher's Summary

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 and mercurial tyrant who terrorizes her neighborhood and her family with the ferocity of her personality and the absolutism of her beliefs. Her brilliant and willful daughter, Miriam, is equally passionate in her activism, but flees Rose’s suffocating influence and embraces the Age of Aquarius counterculture of Greenwich Village.

Both women cast spells that entrance or enchain the men in their lives: Rose’s aristocratic German Jewish husband, Albert; her nephew, the feckless chess hustler Lenny Angrush; Cicero Lookins, the brilliant son of her black cop lover; Miriam’s (slightly fraudulent) Irish folk-singing husband, Tommy Gogan; their bewildered son, Sergius. These flawed, idealistic people all struggle to follow their own utopian dreams 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.

Brilliantly constructed as it weaves across time and among characters, Dissident Gardens is riotous and haunting, satiric and sympathetic - and a joy to read.

©2013 Jonathan Lethem (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A dysfunctional family embodies a dysfunctional epoch, as the novelist continues his ambitious journey through decades, generations, and the boroughs of New York.... The setup of this novel is so frequently funny that it reads like homage to classic Philip Roth." (Kirkus Reviews)

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  • 09-19-13

Not for me

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

The story is very complex... hard to listen and get the characters down

Has Dissident Gardens turned you off from other books in this genre?

no

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Mark Bramhall?

He was fine

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I think I should read the book

Any additional comments?

none

1 of 3 people found this review helpful