When Pru Steiner met and married Spence Robin--her dazzling young hotshot English professor at Columbia--she thought she knew what she was signing up for. But thirty years later, when Spence develops early-onset Alzheimer's, the peaceful (if ambivalent) life Pru has built for herself begins to crumble.
... radiates a tenderness for the city that we, his intended readers, can best appreciate — perhaps now most of all, as we ask our city to return to us ... Henkin is a fine writer with a wry fondness for his characters, but like any New Yorker he knows how to keep a safe distance. The specific letting-go that all New Yorkers must master if we don’t wish to be crippled by nostalgia — especially now, if we do hope to see our city’s resurgence — is particularly nuanced when a city neighborhood is also a college town, but Henkin more than meets this challenge.
A propulsive, literary page-turner about a family beset by early onset Alzheimer’s? If that sounds like an oxymoron then you have not encountered the heart, scalpel, and unassuming genius of Joshua Henkin whose new novel, Morningside Heights is not only a study in craft, but a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit ... Rife with evocative sensory details like the inimitable Chock Full O’ Nuts, Morningside Heights reads like an ode to New York as it maps a narrative of loss, and asks us to consider what it means to live and love, where our faith lies, and what we leave behind ... Henkin, who directs the MFA program at Brooklyn College, is a quiet master whose prose does not call attention to itself, but rather, works in such direct humble service to story that you forget that you are reading. His gift of compression is enviable, as are his instincts for pacing. He knows precisely where to pick us up and where to drop us down, moving the reader through the lives of multiple characters, through multiple points of view, over multiple decades, in a slim volume that’s under 300 pages, all while making it look deceptively easy ... His characters are complicated, flawed, fiercely alive ... not only impossible to put down, but impossible to forget.
... a richly textured family portrait that feels deeply familiar yet profoundly moving and illuminating. As in the best fiction, you come away from Morningside Heights reluctantly—attached to its characters and with new understanding of what it is to be a feeling person dealing with life’s unpredictability ... just when we think it might settle into an affecting chronicle of degenerative disease, Mr. Henkin surprises us with some smart narrative shifts, which underscore that Morningside Heights is above all the story of a marriage and a family—and its often unexpected challenges ... convincingly captures the “years of diminishment” in Spence’s condition, but it’s the nuanced portrait of its characters’ mixed feelings—and passages like the following—that lift its tender story of a family under duress well above the ordinary.