Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Book Review: The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

A Coming of Age Tale Set in 1970's Brooklyn

Dylan Ebdus lives in downtown Brooklyn. At the start of this story, the backdrop is an indentified up and coming neighborhood that the artistic and affluent may eventually settle in but Dylan is the one white boy at the time. Dylan's mother soon leaves on her own adventure, abandoning him and his eccentric emotionally removed artist father.

Dylan must struggle to fit in everywhere he goes. He is often "yoked" (put into a headlock) and what little he has is taken from him. He tries to fit into this world but is often on the fringes but finds the tenacity to continue to strive for greatness and to set himself apart.

Much of this story focuses on the complex relationship he has with his neighbor Mingus, a slightly older boy who is the son of a grammy awarded singer and the grandson of a preacher. Mingus is someone who Dylan idolizes and also gives him a little of the street cred he needs to survive in school and on the streets. Dylan introduces him to comics, graffiti and drugs, and provides a tie to the neighborhood long after he grows and moves on.

The first half of the story is told from Dylan as a little boy. The second half takes us through Dylan's world as a young man. Both stories tell of a struggle for his own identity and happiness. What is surprising is the magical elements that do take place in this book that provide some more ties to a comic book/superhero world. To give away any more than that would ruin the book.

Take this ride. It's both sad and joyous. There is a lot of love, and a lot of pain, much like life in this book. You won't regret it.

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