Love and Shame and Love
Peter Orner's inventive coming-of-age story, Love and Shame and Love, finds the drama pulsing through the most seemingly conventional lives. Alexander Popper is a child of the 1970s, raised in a Chicago suburb, and his story is told through a collage of memories that interweave his recollections of his father, a joyless Chicago attorney, and his beautiful but unhappy mother, with letters that his grandfather wrote during World War II. The kaleidoscopic narrative gives Orner room to play, which he does energetically, acknowledging his influences—Saul Bellow, Franz Kafka, William Faulkner—while exploring Popper's struggles (he's an aspiring writer) to create. In hundreds of brief sections, the book highlights the complexities of Popper's upbringing. "I start things and I stop," he admits. "It doesn't connect. Nothing ever connects." Not so this fine novel, which resonates thanks to Orner's understanding that the more disparate the elements, the more complete the portrait of family life.
— David L. Ulin