May 2017 Indie Next List
“Imagine a sentence that has the slow-burn intensity you feel when reading your favorite mystery novels and the nuance and music of your icons of prose style. Now imagine a whole book of them. Set that book in a small town in Upstate New York, move a family of city folk into a Shirley Jacksonian home, and tell part of the story from the point of view of an 'Observer' who could represent the reader, the author, a house spirit, God, or something else entirely. Now cede your imagination to J. Robert Lennon, whose new novel will transport and move you. A perfect union of breezy and deep, Broken River has something for everyone.”
— John Francisconi, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT
The most inventive and entertaining novel to date from a master of the dark arts (Kelly Link)
A modest house in upstate New York. One in the morning. Three people a couple and their child hurry out the door, but it's too late for them. As the virtuosic and terrifying opening scene of Broken River unfolds, a spectral presence seems to be watching with cold and mysterious interest. Soon the house lies abandoned, and years later a new family moves in.
Karl, Eleanor, and their daughter, Irina, arrive from New York City in the wake of Karl's infidelity to start anew. Karl tries to stabilize his flailing art career. Eleanor, a successful commercial novelist, eagerly pivots in a new creative direction. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Irina becomes obsessed with the brutal murders that occurred in the house years earlier. And, secretly, so does her mother. As the ensemble cast grows to include Louis, a hapless salesman in a carpet warehouse who is haunted by his past, and Sam, a young woman newly reunited with her jailbird brother, the seemingly unrelated crime that opened the story becomes ominously relevant.
Hovering over all this activity looms a gradually awakening narrative consciousness that watches these characters lie to themselves and each other, unleashing forces that none of them could have anticipated and that put them in mortal danger. Broken River is a cinematic, darkly comic, and sui generis psychological thriller that could only have been written by J. Robert Lennon.
About the Author
J. Robert Lennon is the author of eight novels and two story collections. His fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, Granta, Harper's Magazine, Playboy, and The New Yorker. He lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches writing at Cornell University.