- Expected Jun 15, 2021
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.
Henkin (The World Without You) brilliantly conveys the complexities of a New York City family in this humane, compulsively readable tale. In 2006, Shakespeare scholar Spence Robin, 57, is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, and his wife, Pru Steiner, is forced to return his book advance. Their daughter, Sarah, a med student, arrives from Los Angeles on a delayed flight, and Pru wryly reassures Sarah not to worry ("It'll be good practice for when you're a doctor. You'll be keeping people waiting for the rest of your life"). The focus then turns to Arlo Zackheim, Spence's son from his first marriage, whose vagabond, self-centered mother left him with an emptiness he finds hard to fill. At 15, Arlo came to live with Spence for two years, and the marked contrast between his past and living with an erudite, structured father; a kind stepmother; and a bright younger sister is drawn with humor and insight. Henkin reaches further back to describe how Pru escaped her Orthodox Jewish family in Ohio and landed in grad school at Columbia University in 1976, and shows how Spence was a wunderkind in Columbia's English department, making the tragedy of his illness particularly poignant. Equally well handled is Pru's transformation from wife and lover to caretaker wrenching changes that Henkin conveys without dissolving into sentimentality or clich , but rather leaving readers with a kernel of hope. This is a stunning achievement.