Read advance reader review of Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin, page 5 of 6

Summary | Discuss | Reviews | More Information | More Books

Morningside Heights

A Novel

by Joshua Henkin

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin X
Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published May 2022
    304 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this book


Page 5 of 6
There are currently 37 member reviews
for Morningside Heights
Order Reviews by:
  • Nanette C. (Sarasota, FL)
    Lacking in Focus and Emotion
    Don't get me wrong. I liked parts of "Morningside Heights" and never considered putting it down before finishing. But from the start, I was unclear what story Henkin was trying to tell. He begins with Pru's background going to Torah Academy. Ah, I thought, it's a Jewish story. No -- and the relevance of that vignette nearly became clear. These little sidelines continued throughout the book and frustrated me.
    At its heart, though, Morningside Heights is a story of a family -- Spence (brilliant and soon suffering from early onset dementia), Pru (his steadfast wife), Sarah (daughter) and Arlo (son from a prior marriage). For me, only Arlo seemed like a real person. He's angry with his father for leaving him and feels extremely peripheral (and inferior) to the rest of the family. But he's conflicted and wants his father's approval, so he ends up coming and going throughout the book. Arlo's story alone had emotional depth, and I found the book most compelling when the focus was on him.
    What most bothered me about the story, though, was the lack of anger and frustration the characters expressed about Spence's dementia. Dealing with a father with dementia, I know the ups and downs of daily life and how emotionally consuming and brutal it can be. And my father is 90 years old, not a middle-aged man in the prime of his life. Perhaps the author has not dealt with dementia in his family. Perhaps he has but without the emotional turmoil. Either way, the characters' reactions didn't ring true to this reader.
    At the end of the day, Morningside Heights is not a book I'd recommend. There are too many books and too little time.
  • Jessica Z. (Lawrence, NJ)
    Slow Down and Breathe
    While not as good as The World Without You, the novel still stands in a category by itself. Morningside Heights is the history of a family and a neighborhood. Henken's characters remind you to slow down when you examine a life. Events and traditions from your youth can still form who you're supposed to be, despite life's shrinking to replaying soft music and accepting the limitations of those people and locations you love.
  • Beth P. (Chester, VA)
    I wish I felt differently
    I usually cannot wait to review books I read, but I did not feel this way about Morningside Heights. It is about relationships, what we do in adversity, what we do for love. It followed a family living in New York, a mom, a dad, a daughter and a stepson. I did not feel close to the characters, nor care much what happened to them. The story went back and forth in time, and that usually is fine with me, but in this book it was confusing to me. What I did like is that it was about ordinary people, and I did think about Ann Tyler's books, which I love, so that is a positive comment. I do think that book groups would find a lot to talk about after reading this, such as: how would you deal with a spouse who had dementia? Would you feel guilty letting yourself love again? How do blended families work? We all are different, and some may feel more positive about this story than I did.
  • Kate G. (Bronx, NY)
    Family Dysfunction
    Joshua Henkin writes family dysfunction very well and this novel did not disappoint. Pru Steiner has subverted herself to her husband, starting with their affair when she was his Grad Student. Academic novels are my catnip, but the characters in this book felt too flat to me, not completely fleshed out. The estranged son from the prior relationship, Arlo, was just too depressing. The writing and descriptions kept me reading, but ultimately, I liked his prior novel, The World Without End better.
  • Joan V. (Miller Place, NY)
    Morningside Heights
    I had high expectations for this book and was really looking forward to reading it, mostly because it's set in the neighborhood where I grew up and of which I have fond memories. While the upper west side of Manhattan was the location for most of the book, it probably could have been set in almost any metropolitan area with a university as a backdrop.

    If this book is supposed to be funny, the humor was lost on me. The characters were so strange and their interactions to each other made little sense to me. This definitely would make a GREAT book club pick since I would love to discuss it with someone, but sadly I didn't like it enough to recommend it to anyone.

    Spence Robin is a Distinguished Professor at Columbia University, a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award and has a waiting list for his classes on Shakespeare. He marries his graduate student Pru, but neglects to tell her until they are seriously involved in their relationship that he has a son (Arlo) by a previous marriage. Arlo's mother got custody of their child and Spence sees him on holidays and one month in the summer. When Arlo is 15 he comes to live with them, they have a young daughter named Sarah. Arlo calculates he has spent a total of two years with his father.

    Sarah is very smart and excels in school while Arlo is dyslexic and struggles with reading and keeps getting left back. I found this section of the book where Spence decides there is nothing wrong with his son other than that he's lazy and decides to teach him to read very disturbing. Spence is a bully and arrogant. Love or lack thereof is a constant in this father and son relationship. Eventually Arlo leaves and goes back to living with the peripatetic Linda who neglects his schooling and they move around each time she becomes involved with a new man.

    The POV switches throughout the book between characters, time periods and locations, while not too jarring it was rather annoying. People leave abruptly and don't stay in contact with each other for years (mostly Arlo) and then they unceremoniously reappear and at the same time profess to really love each other.

    I don't mind a book where none of the characters are "likeable" however none of these characters were relatable to me; for smart people they sure were dumb in some ways. For example, if someone can no longer do daily tasks without help i.e., put on their shoes and lace them – give them loafers to wear. If you are nervous about cutting someone when you shave them – use an electric razor. Perhaps I am quibbling about trivia, but these things drove me crazy.

    On the plus side the descriptions of dealing with Alzheimer's were heartbreaking and very well written. Pru's struggle to get help and decisions on whether or not to get Spence into an experimental treatment program as well as her guilt over trying to still maintain a life of her own struck a chord.

    I found Arlo to be the most interesting character in the book. He appears for a while, then disappears, he starts schools and then drops out. He seems to have a strong moral compass no thanks to his upbringing, he becomes very successful and yet is a social misfit.

    I wish I could give this book a higher rating, but all-in-all it left me dissatisfied.
  • Mary Lou F. (Naples, FL)
    Lack of interest
    I'm sorry to say, after many attempts to get into this book, I could not finish it.
  • Susan B. (Fort Myers, FL)
    Lack of depth dealing with demenita
    How to tell you about this book. It tries to deal with a loved one getting dementia and how it affects those in the family and others that were part of his world. That being said, I thought the overall story dealt lightly with each person, the professor who had dementia, his wife, estranged son, daughter, and professors and students.

    We get to know each person's history and how they cope with the professor's dementia but we are never told how they feel, what are there fears, hopes, and how does it change their feelings for him. His spouse copes as well as she can but I never felt any empathy for her or others.

    Sorry , I love reading but can't really recommend this one.


Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    The Lost Ticket
    by Freya Sampson
    Drama on the bus can be Shakespearean. You just want to go downtown, but on the way, you overhear a ...
  • Book Jacket
    The War Librarian
    by Addison Armstrong
    Emmaline Balakin believes in the power of the written word — books have changed her life. When...
  • Book Jacket: The Book of Goose
    The Book of Goose
    by Yiyun Li
    Yiyun Li's The Book of Goose is a story of childhood friendship between narrator Agnès, a one-...
  • Book Jacket: Big Red
    Big Red
    by Jerome Charyn
    Jerome Charyn made his name as an author of detective novels, and over the years he has taken his ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Bell in the Lake
by Lars Mytting
The engrossing epic novel - a #1 bestseller in Norway - of a young woman whose fate plays out against her village's mystical church bells.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Our Missing Hearts
    by Celeste Ng

    From the author of Little Fires Everywhere, the inspiring new novel about a mother’s unbreakable love in a world consumed by fear.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.



Solve this clue:

G R T Bad R

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.