PositiveThe A.V ClubJonathan Lethem should be commended...for coming up with a character as intriguing as Lionel Essrog, a detective suffering from a severe case of obsessive-compulsive Tourette Syndrome ... Since the sleuthing is the least interesting element of Motherless Brooklyn, it’s fortunate that Essrog is such a fascinating presence: His plight is both funny and sad as he stumbles toward a relatively clumsy conclusion that necessitates about 12 straight pages of explanation. Everyone else in the story seems to think Essrog is either stupid or insane—the reader is almost exclusively privy to his street smarts and intelligence—and Lethem’s virtuoso handling of his protagonist’s tics doesn’t hurt ... Essrog’s dialogue is constantly kaleidoscoping, a combination of word games, anagrams, and sheer gibberish with a rhythm all its own. Lethem conveniently sets up a sequel, and Motherless Brooklyn deserves it.
RaveThe A.V. ClubA major clue to Russo's goals lies in the multiple meanings of the novel's title, which not only designates the small-town Maine setting, but also the author's ambitious intent to illustrate the traumatic transition of America itself, from changing economic issues (beginning with the rise and fall of a textile mill and its millionaire benefactors) to personal matters. Empire Falls also focuses on the dissolution and disillusion of the American family, and the futile but comforting lies people tell themselves even as things fall apart … Russo always knows how to mix humor and tragedy, but the balance has never seemed better realized or more moving.
RaveThe AV ClubWhile Staggering Genius is admittedly uneven, that's paradoxically part of its unpredictable charm: Eggers would never go about things the standard way, and the book—at times both heartbreaking and genius—ably reflects his idiosyncratic, hyper-casual, pop-culture-saturated worldview.