Dissident Gardens is exhilarating, overwhelming, and a mess. Jonathan Lethem’s ninth novel is a sprawling meander through three generations of New York Communists and other left-wing radicals, and it ranges all over the metropolitan—and ideological, and religious, and racial—map. The book begins with a Communist Party ultimatum to the formidable Rose Zimmer, a fortysomething matriarch, to cease her sexual congress with a black cop. Rose is livid: “Here was Communist habit, Communist ritual: the living-room trial, the respectable lynch mob . . . lifting a butter knife to slather a piece of toast and using it in passing to sever you from that to which you’d given your life.”
About the Author
Fernanda Moore, who reviews fiction regularly for Commentary, last wrote for us about Christopher Hacker’s The Morels.