Morningside Heights: Book summary and reviews of Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

Morningside Heights

A Novel

by Joshua Henkin

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin X
Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Jun 15, 2021
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

A tender, powerful, and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You and Matrimony.

When Ohio-born Pru Steiner arrives in New York in 1976 after graduating from Yale, she follows in a long tradition of young people determined to take the city by storm. But when she falls in love with Spence Robin, her hotshot young Shakespeare professor, her life takes a turn she couldn't have anticipated.

Thirty years later, something is wrong with Spence. The Great Man can't concentrate; he falls asleep reading The New York Review of Books. With their daughter Sarah away at medical school, Pru must struggle on her own. One day, feeling particularly isolated, Pru meets a man, and the possibility of new romance blooms. Meanwhile, Spence's estranged son from his first marriage has come back into their lives. Arlo, a wealthy entrepreneur who invests in biotech, may be his father's last, best hope.

Morningside Heights is a sweeping and compassionate novel about a marriage surviving hardship. It's about the love between women and men and children and parents, about the things we give up in the face of adversity, about what endures when life turns out differently from what we thought we signed up for.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Henkin brilliantly conveys the complexities of a New York City family in this humane, compulsively readable tale...This is a stunning achievement." - Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Henkin specializes in melancholy stories about complicated families, and this one is a real heartbreaker. His portrait of Pru is nuanced and sensitive, following her into one of the darkest places a spouse can go and hitting the notes just right." - Kirkus

"In the sheer pleasure of reading Joshua Henkin's new novel—of following its swift narrative movements, getting to know its all-too-human characters, inhabiting its detail-perfect settings, its relentlessly accurate portrayals— of marriage and parenthood and siblinghood—we can almost forget, for moments on end, that it subject is one of the most painful imaginable: the loss of a self, of a marriage, of a shared life. But the real magic of Morningside Heights is the way it lifts us up, reminding us that ordinary people undertake extraordinary acts of survival every day." - Julie Orringer

"Reading Morningside Heights is an emotional experience. How much can befall a marriage, and what extraordinary demands must sometimes be met for loved ones to endure. But it is a delightful read as well, because the people here are such thoroughly engaging company. So much that happens in this book is unexpected that it reads at the pace of a suspense novel, but its greatest achievement is to make us feel that we are in the presence of real people, living out their joys and sorrows and making their way in the real world." - Sigrid Nunez

"What does it really mean: in sickness and in health, till death do us part? Morningside Heights knows the answer. In this tender, wise, and unflinching novel, Joshua Henkin traces the bittersweet arc of a lifelong love, with all its joy and pain." - Tom Perrotta

"You know a novel is good when the thought of leaving the world it creates and the people who live there fills you with sadness and a profound sense of loss. Joshua Henkin's Morningside Heights is just such a novel." - Richard Russo

This information about Morningside Heights shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Gretchen M. (Martinsburg, WV)

Couldn't Put It Down
I haven't enjoyed a book like this one in awhile. Characters who are real and funny and honest, a plot that flows and a difficult subject matter depicted with respect and sensitivity. It's so much more than the book jacket describes. Read it!

What are words?

Intertwined lives
Forgo vs. forego; sleight vs. slight; principle vs. principal; flout vs. flaunt; grizzly vs. grisly; mantel vs. mantle; anaticlimactic not anticlimactic - why do these word pairs matter? Do they matter at all? Professor Spence Robin's son Arlo knows that they do not matter, yet to his father, they are a concrete measurement of Arlo's education and ability.

Morningside Heights is divided into 8 sections each one with its own emphasis on a character from the book and his or her relationships. The book revolves around the life of Professor Spencer Robin who is a professor of Shakespeare at Columbia University. He is an academic star and one of the youngest professors at the university.

The story begins when Pru Steiner enrolls in the Professor's class. Their relationship is pivotal in the book. The Intellectual Professor gradually crumbles under the diseases of Alzheimer's and dementia sometime after Pru and the Professor are married.

The novel expertly weaves in and out of the four characters' lives. It examines the joys and devastating consequences that life in a loving but dysfunctional family bring.

Often a soft touch of humor enters into the novel. In chapter 33 a scene of lovemaking turns from romantic to awkward mirroring the life of the relationship itself.

This novel would be an excellent choice for a book club as it challenges our perceptions of love, Alzheimer's disease, and awkward familial relationships in blended family and other family issues.

This novel is insightful and timely- a tribute to the frailty of familial love.

Patty S. (Towson, MD)

Believe In These Characters!
I was so moved by MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS that I had to let it sit for a couple of days before I could write about it. It is the story of a family that will experience hard things. It took me almost no time at all to become invested in Joshua Henkin's characters. They are alive and their experiences ring true, from the sweetness to the excruciating pain. Through it all, it is love and compassion that keeps them putting one foot in front of the other. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Susan P. (Boston, MA)

Morningside Heights
This is a sweet and sad story. Pru, a young Jewish woman from the Midwest, starts graduate school at Columbia and falls for her professor. She finds all the lovely things about him are counterbalanced by problems (his previous marriage, his overshadowing fame) and, later, his declining health. Not a long book, but a very deliberate and well-thought-out story of perhaps an ordinary person who really is inspirational (without trying to be anything remotely like that). Hard to put down!

Mary S. (Hilton Head Island, SC)

Realistic and Compelling
Seldom does a story about a family attain the realism that the author did in this book. Perhaps I am at an age when the storyline depicts situations similar to my own, but I identified with each of the characters completely. The author's use of parallel timelines captured my attention and made me want to read on and learn "what happens next". The life situations were believable and enduring-- I highly recommend this book as a quick, enjoyable read!

Cynthia V. (New York, NY)

Surprisingly Uplifting
A novel about a literature professor's battle with early onset Alzheimer's does not sound like something I'd ordinarily be drawn to. But this book is so much more. The setting is contemporary Upper West Side New York in the environs of Columbia University. The family members experience complex and sometimes contradictory emotions, which are honest and unsentimental. I found the author's writing of the family dynamics lovingly natural and unselfconscious. The time frame goes back and forth, but easily understood and serves character development well. Reading this compassionate, well-written and ultimately life affirming novel was a pleasure.

...30 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Joshua Henkin Author Biography

Photo: Matthew Polis

Joshua Henkin is the author of the novels Matrimony, a New York Times Notable Book, and Swimming Across the Hudson, a Los Angeles Times Notable Book and The World Without You, winner of the 2012 Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish American Fiction and a Finalist for the 2012 National Jewish Book Award. His short stories have been published widely, cited for distinction in Best American Short Stories, and broadcast on NPR's "Selected Shorts." His fourth novel is Morningside Heights (June 2021). He lives in Brooklyn, NY, and directs the MFA program in Fiction Writing at Brooklyn College.

Author Interview
Link to Joshua Henkin's Website

Other books by Joshua Henkin at BookBrowse
  • The World Without You jacket
  • Matrimony jacket
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