Lions by Bonnie Nadzam


You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. David Lehman says:

    If you’re going to post a review of a book, you might at least spell the main character’s name correctly: it’s “Leigh,” not “Leah”. The rest of your review was similarly careless. You are reading far too much for plot! I thought this novel was fantastic, with complex interwoven themes, none of which are resolved simply. Here are some ideas you are missing:

    WHY does Gordon not want to leave Lions? Why does Leigh want to? What does Leigh’s restlessness suggest about the American West? What becomes of Gordon, after all? Is Gordon really visiting a ghost named Lamar Boggs or is this just another story that Leigh tells herself? (A more careful reader would note that the sections describing Gordon going to see Boggs are told from Leigh’s point of view). How do you explain the ending, where an older Leigh finds a cabin close to town (not in the mountains after all) with Gordon’s stuff inside?

    Moreover, I think it is exactly wrong to say that Gordon’s mind is “distracted and elsewhere”. Perhaps the central theme of the book is that when engaged in his work, Gordon is the picture of non-distraction. Rather, it is Leigh who is distracted by dreams of leaving town for the bigger and better, elsewhere. You seem to miss the irony of the narrator’s statement that Lions is “not only bare, but obviously cursed”. Who is the narrator and how is he/she invested?

    It’s too bad to see a website claiming to be dedicated to book reviews posting such a careless reading of a fine novel. I’ve noticed similarly careless reviews by Mr. Arnold and it is certainly disappointing. Mr. Arnold: learn to read for more than plot, or review movies instead!

  2. Jeff Alford says:

    Dear David, I appreciate you speaking up and passing on your comments and criticisms. I’ve seen a lot of glowing reviews of LIONS and knew I’d be an outsider with what I posted, but I stand by it. I think by setting her story in what, to me, feels like an American West Lego Village, Nadzam limits herself to telling a simple – and at times, very cliche – story. Nadzam undoubtedly has great potential, all of which can be clearly seen in LIONS in the few moments we see Leigh as an adult. These are complicated, beautiful passages. But each of those moments that you find exciting to talk about are nestled in pages of useless banter in a diner about home-cooked meals, “the men” talking about their mechanical work, predictable narration about the dust settling on the plains, and so on. I think many readers will find these elements a slog to get through, and when they do, won’t care enough to wonder what’s motivating these seemingly stock characters through what is essentially a story that they’ve heard before.

    I do strongly think that there are readers, like you, who will adore LIONS, and because of that I chose not to discuss the novel’s ending and some of the other particulars that you mention in your comments. But there is some we can discuss:

    Gordon, I think (as I wrote in my review), is quite literally distracted and elsewhere in the novel, but it’s on a curious small-town level (he is 100% not there for much of the book’s midsection). It’s not the elsewhere that Leigh’s been dreaming of, but it’s his own way of leaving town and seeing what else is out there. I think that his absence, though, was a turning point for Leigh and their relationship – do you think her desires to leave were cemented while he was gone, in a “well if he can be gone then I can too”, kind of way? Did Gordon’s absence inadvertently show Leigh how to be alone?

    Any ad hominem criticisms you’d like to make about me can go directly to our editor, but let’s keep the comments section for discussing the novel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *