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Lucas Mann was only thirteen years old when his brother Josh—charismatic and ambitious, funny and sadistic, violent and vulnerable—died of a heroin overdose. Although his brief life is ultimately unknowable, Josh is both a presence and an absence in the author’s life that will not remain unclaimed. As Josh’s story is told in kaleidoscopic shards of memories assembled from Lucas Mann was only thirteen years old when his brother Josh—charismatic and ambitious, funny and sadistic, violent and vulnerable—died of a heroin overdose. Although his brief life is ultimately unknowable, Josh is both a presence and an absence in the author’s life that will not remain unclaimed. As Josh’s story is told in kaleidoscopic shards of memories assembled from interviews with his friends and family, as well as from the raw material of his journals, a revealing, startling portrait unfolds. At the same time, Mann pulls back to examine his own complicated feelings and motives for recovering memories of his brother’s life, searching for a balance between the tension of inevitability and the what ifs that beg to be asked. Through his investigation, Mann also comes to redefine his own place in a family whose narrative is bisected by the tragic loss.   Unstinting in its honesty, captivating in its form, and profound in its conclusions, Lord Fear more than confirms the promise of Mann’s earlier book, Class A; with it, he is poised to enter the ranks of the best young writers of his generation.


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Lucas Mann was only thirteen years old when his brother Josh—charismatic and ambitious, funny and sadistic, violent and vulnerable—died of a heroin overdose. Although his brief life is ultimately unknowable, Josh is both a presence and an absence in the author’s life that will not remain unclaimed. As Josh’s story is told in kaleidoscopic shards of memories assembled from Lucas Mann was only thirteen years old when his brother Josh—charismatic and ambitious, funny and sadistic, violent and vulnerable—died of a heroin overdose. Although his brief life is ultimately unknowable, Josh is both a presence and an absence in the author’s life that will not remain unclaimed. As Josh’s story is told in kaleidoscopic shards of memories assembled from interviews with his friends and family, as well as from the raw material of his journals, a revealing, startling portrait unfolds. At the same time, Mann pulls back to examine his own complicated feelings and motives for recovering memories of his brother’s life, searching for a balance between the tension of inevitability and the what ifs that beg to be asked. Through his investigation, Mann also comes to redefine his own place in a family whose narrative is bisected by the tragic loss.   Unstinting in its honesty, captivating in its form, and profound in its conclusions, Lord Fear more than confirms the promise of Mann’s earlier book, Class A; with it, he is poised to enter the ranks of the best young writers of his generation.

30 review for Lord Fear: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan Ely

    I was sent this book by my brother in law and really had a hard time putting it down. I've known a fair share of addicts and cared for several of them - to read this book was to see some of my own thoughts, questions and fears through someone else's words. However, the things that makes this book amazing is not that the story itself is compelling. The story is ordinary. Ordinary in the way each one of us lives a life that is extraordinary only because it is ours - the sort of ordinary that wishe I was sent this book by my brother in law and really had a hard time putting it down. I've known a fair share of addicts and cared for several of them - to read this book was to see some of my own thoughts, questions and fears through someone else's words. However, the things that makes this book amazing is not that the story itself is compelling. The story is ordinary. Ordinary in the way each one of us lives a life that is extraordinary only because it is ours - the sort of ordinary that wishes other people would be compelled to know you but quite honestly aren't. Each of us thinks that our experiences are such that the whole world would sit on the edge of their seat to learn more and yet these are the same people we walk by every day and ignore. The only difference here is the amazing writing that forces you to see the extraordinary view of an existence that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Miss Norman

    It reads fast due to the vocabulary. Josh is an intriguing person, but never really moves past the "enigmatic addict" character... if he really is that enigmatic? Writing on a sentence level is not the best, but the style overall is interesting. It reads fast due to the vocabulary. Josh is an intriguing person, but never really moves past the "enigmatic addict" character... if he really is that enigmatic? Writing on a sentence level is not the best, but the style overall is interesting.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    The art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than growing with them... ~ Barnard M. Baruch This thoughtful and sincere memoir authored by Lucas Mann recalls his half brother Josh who died when Mann was 13. The impact of grief and loss, the nature of his death, left rippling effects on Josh's family and friends that endured over time. In addition to his own recollections Mann interviewed close family and friends for this book who knew his brother most. Josh, described as having a "eye-br The art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than growing with them... ~ Barnard M. Baruch This thoughtful and sincere memoir authored by Lucas Mann recalls his half brother Josh who died when Mann was 13. The impact of grief and loss, the nature of his death, left rippling effects on Josh's family and friends that endured over time. In addition to his own recollections Mann interviewed close family and friends for this book who knew his brother most. Josh, described as having a "eye-brow arching cartoony quality" was a very handsome young man, that in addition to family and friends, left behind a string of minority girlfriends who mourned his passing. Sima, his last girlfriend, years later recalled (from the book): "she will find time in between, she tells me, to light a candle for Josh, the way she did after his funeral. She won't tell her husband or her daughter, because they did not know who Josh is, was, and she doesn't want them to." Josh simply wasn't a nice man. As a teen, Josh terrorized a small boy, duct taping him naked in an elevator, tortured mice before feeding them to his pet boa-constrictor "Percy". He was crude, talking about female parts and mocked his girlfriends behind their backs. In addition to being a heroin addict, Josh recorded his struggles with anxiety and panic attacks in journals of poetry and music, played the drums, considered himself a musician, though never performed. He never completed writing projects or supported himself. Before his death, Josh had been in rehab at Beth Israel, cared for lovingly after release by his mother Beth. Mann wrote an unflinchingly honest portrayal of his brothers life, though it seemed a "disservice" for an author to highlight the more negative characteristics of loved ones. Mann was influenced by Nabokov's "Speak Memory", it was interesting to follow the family and friends stories in the years following Josh's passing. Many thanks to the Seattle Public Library for the loan of this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Willis

    The problem with rating this book for me is that I already had certain expectations before I even began. This was a recommendation and it sounded - enlightening - when described to me. However, I don't feel enlightened whatsoever after reading this book. Lucas Mann, the book's author, wrote this story as a memoir of sorts about his older brother who passed away of a drug overdose. Mann decided to "interview" people that knew his brother and were involved in his life to try and piece together a f The problem with rating this book for me is that I already had certain expectations before I even began. This was a recommendation and it sounded - enlightening - when described to me. However, I don't feel enlightened whatsoever after reading this book. Lucas Mann, the book's author, wrote this story as a memoir of sorts about his older brother who passed away of a drug overdose. Mann decided to "interview" people that knew his brother and were involved in his life to try and piece together a fuller picture of who he really was and what led him to the moment(s) where he turned to drugs. On the surface, it sounds like an intriguing read. Reading it was different. I mostly expected a bit more straight-forward read of conversations between two people at any given point. What I got was a hard-to-follow pattern and first-person pov's that the author couldn't really have known. So mostly the book seemed a bit fabricated. I understand that a lot of the material was based on memories which are not definitive, but that made me question what was real and what was imagined. Plus, I never truly got a better impression of this guy's brother. Some of the writing was ok, but this was most certainly not my favorite book this year.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt Ely

    Whatever I say, I won't be able to say enough about the value and power of this book. I bought it based on my deep and inexplicable enthusiasm for Mann's first book. I'll admit to worrying this was going to be overly sentimental or indulgent, but clearly my fears were misplaced. What's most clear is the deliberate process the author took to craft the work. This is not a collection of first impressions or simple recollections. Mann writes as one who has seen through the lies we tell ourselves whe Whatever I say, I won't be able to say enough about the value and power of this book. I bought it based on my deep and inexplicable enthusiasm for Mann's first book. I'll admit to worrying this was going to be overly sentimental or indulgent, but clearly my fears were misplaced. What's most clear is the deliberate process the author took to craft the work. This is not a collection of first impressions or simple recollections. Mann writes as one who has seen through the lies we tell ourselves when we lose a loved one, the simple platitudes. He embraces the complexity and impossibility of trying to discover the secret to a life long since ended and refuses to give simple conclusions. I am not the first to say that this is as much about memory as it is about the life of the author's brother. The perpetual undercurrent of these conversations is a question: which Josh was real? And perhaps most poignantly: which memories do we choose to forget or reinforce to make this dead man fit our narrative for his life? Like Class A, Lord Fear is eye-opening and unique in ways that I lack the words to describe. Put simply, it's the kind of book I want to buy for other people. It demands to be read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    A memoir of loss, but so different from many of its peers. The book is an admirably honest depiction of Mann's grief over the loss of his brother, who succumbed to opiate addiction. The author depicts interviews with sources who knew his brother to varying degrees, interwoven with vignettes about Josh's life based on those very real-feeling experiences. I especially appreciated the author's internal reflections—the genuine mechanics of how he processed, and continues to process, the life and dea A memoir of loss, but so different from many of its peers. The book is an admirably honest depiction of Mann's grief over the loss of his brother, who succumbed to opiate addiction. The author depicts interviews with sources who knew his brother to varying degrees, interwoven with vignettes about Josh's life based on those very real-feeling experiences. I especially appreciated the author's internal reflections—the genuine mechanics of how he processed, and continues to process, the life and death of his brother. He opens up about all the feelings grief can usher in—feelings that aren't traditionally associated with grief—and captures well just how frustrating and confusing it can be. It's an inspiring example of how to counterbalance polished prose with the inherent "messiness"/unreliability that often constitutes human suffering. I really admire the author for taking this on—I can't imagine a piece so close to your heart ever feels "done." I'm thankful for the writers, and particularly nonfiction writers, who power forth through all those anxieties and share their work. It's inspiring for those of us who are struggling to get over the hump. PS idk how to rank books. Whenever I give something 5 stars, I think, "I'd rather give this a 4.5." But then when I think about what I'd give it on a scale of 10 stars, the answer is usually 8. My simian brain cannot calibrate to this so there is always a massive margin of error.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Colton

    This book impressed me. Lucas Mann provides the facts and sentimental speculations for every scene and every page. Material jumps from conservative funerals to titty-sucking fantasies so quickly that I can't help but compare Mann's audacity to William Burroughs. The prose is slow and meditative, which conveys a proper tone for a book about addiction, nostalgia, and death. Mann doesn't pull any punches when he depicts the central character (Josh) as sadistic or juvenile, and I appreciate him taki This book impressed me. Lucas Mann provides the facts and sentimental speculations for every scene and every page. Material jumps from conservative funerals to titty-sucking fantasies so quickly that I can't help but compare Mann's audacity to William Burroughs. The prose is slow and meditative, which conveys a proper tone for a book about addiction, nostalgia, and death. Mann doesn't pull any punches when he depicts the central character (Josh) as sadistic or juvenile, and I appreciate him taking that risk. Though it's not a masterpiece, I'd recommend Lord Fear to anyone interested in something readable and emotionally effective.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I’m glad I read this. It is a very sad book. It opens with a funeral for the author’s half brother, who died of an overdose. It is an exploration of that brother’s life and his meditations on it. The author is a good writer. It felt to me like the book could have been an article or an essay and I would have gotten the same thing from it. It is a parade of pain. The author’s. His brother’s. Their parents.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie D.E.

    I read this book based on my husband's inclusion of it on his favorites list. I did not know what to expect, but was drawn in by the unique approach to memoir. Mann brings together several people's recollections of his brother, and in so doing, brings to light multiple perspectives and interpretations of one life. I read this book based on my husband's inclusion of it on his favorites list. I did not know what to expect, but was drawn in by the unique approach to memoir. Mann brings together several people's recollections of his brother, and in so doing, brings to light multiple perspectives and interpretations of one life.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Frances Houseman

    Excruciating book. Hated almost every minute of it. It gets four stars because the writing was beautiful and clearly, the book made me feel something. So glad it’s done.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Challena Gilbert

    It was a little hard to get started but ultimately I ended up enjoying exploring a character through the perspective of others.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hillairy

    Memory is such a tricky thing; how many of us are willing to do the tough work to deliberately dismantle our constructions of those we've loved and lost? Is it better to know them as they truly were--to see them at their most real, their worst, their unbrushed teeth and anger and addiction, or should we leave well enough alone? Should we balm our grief with the distillation of their best essence and reject their faults, their failures? Mann has written something truly compelling here. Memory is such a tricky thing; how many of us are willing to do the tough work to deliberately dismantle our constructions of those we've loved and lost? Is it better to know them as they truly were--to see them at their most real, their worst, their unbrushed teeth and anger and addiction, or should we leave well enough alone? Should we balm our grief with the distillation of their best essence and reject their faults, their failures? Mann has written something truly compelling here.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mdury

    I read this book because I so thoroughly enjoyed Lucas Mann's "Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere." And yes, this book is a very different topic, approach, and sense of an ending. Mostly, I love Mann's writing style: the sentences, the implying, the punctuated silences of descriptions, his ruminations on the form of memory/memoir. Admittedly, the book became increasingly hard to read near the end, primarily because of the topic and the unflinching honesty and detail with which he wrot I read this book because I so thoroughly enjoyed Lucas Mann's "Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere." And yes, this book is a very different topic, approach, and sense of an ending. Mostly, I love Mann's writing style: the sentences, the implying, the punctuated silences of descriptions, his ruminations on the form of memory/memoir. Admittedly, the book became increasingly hard to read near the end, primarily because of the topic and the unflinching honesty and detail with which he wrote about it all. At the same time the book is much more than a early 2000s "I have a sad story. Here's my memoir." Mann understands what the form does and how it might best do it. Upon finishing the book, I felt a bit physically sick to my stomach, but I am not sure anyone should feel ambivalent or indifferent about the images and conversations he is painting for readers. In all: I greatly enjoyed it, but I can imagine it is "not for everyone" depending on a variety of things [your own experience/lack experience with family, siblings, memory, addiction/proximity to addiction, and uncertainty]. Mann's "Captive Audience: On Love and Reality TV" comes out in May (2018). I never thought I'd sign up for a book about reality TV—a memoir no-less. But somehow, Mann's writing style gives me faith that he will, to steal from Sandra Cisneros, spin "straw into gold" somehow. Looking forward to read this next book from him.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christine Zibas

    Author Lucas Mann manages to do an amazing thing with his biography of his brother Josh, a heroin addict. He makes Josh both a monster and beloved. It seems an impossible contradiction, but not only is that the sort of person Josh was, it's who we all are, to greater or lesser degrees, and that, perhaps, is the lesson in this tale. It took Mann ten years to write this book (his second). It's hard to write about someone we know, and even more so with a person like Josh, who was so obviously a dist Author Lucas Mann manages to do an amazing thing with his biography of his brother Josh, a heroin addict. He makes Josh both a monster and beloved. It seems an impossible contradiction, but not only is that the sort of person Josh was, it's who we all are, to greater or lesser degrees, and that, perhaps, is the lesson in this tale. It took Mann ten years to write this book (his second). It's hard to write about someone we know, and even more so with a person like Josh, who was so obviously a disturbed person and yet manifested moments of real brilliance and light. Through his own memories and those who knew Josh best, Mann finds keys to his brother and his life, although never a complete picture. Even if Josh had not been a junkie who died of an overdose, he would have remained an enigmatic person, difficult to understand. One feels both compassion and disgust, albeit at different points in the book. Mann uses honesty and memories as biting tools to clear a jungle path of understanding, but I am not sure he is ever successful, even if he has created a fascinating book to read. My only complaint is that there are no chapter subdivisions, only one long book, barely divided (on occasion) by an empty line or two. This is a hard book to read, but worthy of your time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alex Hubbard

    I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did. It's easy to remember people in extremes - either as wicked villains or perfect angels. Mann creates a portrait of his brother that resists such easy sanitizing and leaves the reader simultaneously with a beautiful picture of a person and a complicated understanding of all the ways that picture is incomplete. Structurally, Lord Fear presents an incredibly interesting and engaging way of writing a memoir. Mann acknowledges that the book "moves I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did. It's easy to remember people in extremes - either as wicked villains or perfect angels. Mann creates a portrait of his brother that resists such easy sanitizing and leaves the reader simultaneously with a beautiful picture of a person and a complicated understanding of all the ways that picture is incomplete. Structurally, Lord Fear presents an incredibly interesting and engaging way of writing a memoir. Mann acknowledges that the book "moves between different interviews, recollections, realizations, and scenes" as an "attempt to understand a life." He adds, "I think that's how memory works." After spending time with Lord Fear, I think that, too. I could go on and on here and talk about how wonderful it was to read something that resists easy narratives of addiction, memory, and familial love in the interest of speaking to a life as it is actually lived and remembered. Mann's greatest triumph here, though, is perhaps his ability to construct an image of brotherly love that is entirely believable and not cliched.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David

    There's a lot of heart in this memoir, in which Mann collects memories from those who knew his stepbrother Josh. Josh, a junkie, died of a heroin overdose when Mann was just thirteen. When helping is not an option, one wants to at least pity those who suffer terribly inside. So I wish I could say otherwise, but Mann's portrait of Josh downright terrified me. As a result, I view Mann's mission as brave, generous, and endearing. Mann has amazing talent for writing, but otherwise doesn't expose much There's a lot of heart in this memoir, in which Mann collects memories from those who knew his stepbrother Josh. Josh, a junkie, died of a heroin overdose when Mann was just thirteen. When helping is not an option, one wants to at least pity those who suffer terribly inside. So I wish I could say otherwise, but Mann's portrait of Josh downright terrified me. As a result, I view Mann's mission as brave, generous, and endearing. Mann has amazing talent for writing, but otherwise doesn't expose much of himself (even his wife gets a fake name). Rather, the memories he shares belong mostly to others (except for the best one, exceedingly precious and tender, saved for the last pages), and were transcribed after considerable passage of time—to a degree that I started thinking of this book as necessarily an imagined memoir, at least in part.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bridget Foley

    The best books are the ones where you find yourself making lists of all the people to whom you must send copies. I had this experience with Lucas Mann's LORD FEAR, sending emails to an old roommate, my brother, and my husband all before I had even finished reading. Subject line: You Must Read This Book. Lord Fear is less a memoir than it is an experiment in the novelization of memories and Mann pulls it off beautifully. A meditation on the nature of masculinity and the shifting nature of memory, The best books are the ones where you find yourself making lists of all the people to whom you must send copies. I had this experience with Lucas Mann's LORD FEAR, sending emails to an old roommate, my brother, and my husband all before I had even finished reading. Subject line: You Must Read This Book. Lord Fear is less a memoir than it is an experiment in the novelization of memories and Mann pulls it off beautifully. A meditation on the nature of masculinity and the shifting nature of memory, this is a book for anyone who has ever loved a complicated person and had to reconcile those complications after they were gone.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Luke Mann was 13-years-old when his brother Josh overdosed on heroin. He opens Lord Fear, a memoir of his brother’s life, at Josh’s funeral because, “I once read a Philip Roth novel that begins over a grave,” with a “clenched pack of modern, white-collar American Jews shuffling their feet and talking about a man who died unfinished…” My full review is here. Luke Mann was 13-years-old when his brother Josh overdosed on heroin. He opens Lord Fear, a memoir of his brother’s life, at Josh’s funeral because, “I once read a Philip Roth novel that begins over a grave,” with a “clenched pack of modern, white-collar American Jews shuffling their feet and talking about a man who died unfinished…” My full review is here.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Lord Fear is a beautiful and heartbreaking portrait of a family and a brother's search for answers. It is a rare thing when an author can answer very few of a reader's burning questions and still leave that reader feeling satisfied. With his eloquent writing, Lucas Mann brings warmth and humanity to a subject about which I am normally adverse to read. Through Mann's writing, his brother is not simply a villain or a victim but instead a fully formed human with whom we can all relate. Lord Fear is a beautiful and heartbreaking portrait of a family and a brother's search for answers. It is a rare thing when an author can answer very few of a reader's burning questions and still leave that reader feeling satisfied. With his eloquent writing, Lucas Mann brings warmth and humanity to a subject about which I am normally adverse to read. Through Mann's writing, his brother is not simply a villain or a victim but instead a fully formed human with whom we can all relate.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Ward

    Lord Fear: A Memoir by Lucas Mann (Pantheon Books 2015) (Biography). Author Lucas Mann was the youngest of three brothers. Middle brother Josh was a heroin addict, and he died of a drug overdose. The book is a series of stories and reminiscences about Josh in an effort to understand and explain what happened. Upon first reading, it is perfectly clear that Josh was unhinged even in childhood. His death, while sad, is hardly unexpected. My rating: 7/10, finished 12/23/15.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bryn Clark

    The story of an addict Josh, as told by his younger brother Luke, reads like the tale of two brothers in Steinbeck's East of Eden. Josh became more real and more human as the book went on. Not in a way that makes the reader pity him, but like we can relate; his is the plight of all of us- the question we all ask- just accelerated and more vibrantly heinous than most of us can ever bear to see. The story of an addict Josh, as told by his younger brother Luke, reads like the tale of two brothers in Steinbeck's East of Eden. Josh became more real and more human as the book went on. Not in a way that makes the reader pity him, but like we can relate; his is the plight of all of us- the question we all ask- just accelerated and more vibrantly heinous than most of us can ever bear to see.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Neeka27

    I feel bad for saying this but all of his memories about his brother made him seem like a insensitive jerk. Therefore I just couldn't find a reason to continue reading after the first few chapters. Sorry. I feel bad for saying this but all of his memories about his brother made him seem like a insensitive jerk. Therefore I just couldn't find a reason to continue reading after the first few chapters. Sorry.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Colby

    This book was really heavy for me. It reminded me so much of my younger brother who died almost 6 years ago. So much of his character was encapsulated in this book. This is an important work. Thank you for writing it. Brothers and sisters need to write more about our experiences. Thank you.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cinde

    I'm not usually a fan of memoirs but this isn't written like a usual memoir. It's more like a character study and I loved the way it was written. I'm can only imagine how difficult it was to write but Mr. Mann was very generous. For anyone who knows an addict, you'll appreciate this. I'm not usually a fan of memoirs but this isn't written like a usual memoir. It's more like a character study and I loved the way it was written. I'm can only imagine how difficult it was to write but Mr. Mann was very generous. For anyone who knows an addict, you'll appreciate this.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    4.25

  26. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This was a very honest narrative. If you've ever known anyone to die early from circumstances that you never fully understood, this book articulates many of those complex emotions beautifully. This was a very honest narrative. If you've ever known anyone to die early from circumstances that you never fully understood, this book articulates many of those complex emotions beautifully.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joni Aveni

    I appreciated this look at addiction through the eyes of a sibling as well as the author's interviews with others who had known his brother. Beautifully written and hard to put down. I appreciated this look at addiction through the eyes of a sibling as well as the author's interviews with others who had known his brother. Beautifully written and hard to put down.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Josh MacIvor-Andersen

    Riveting, dark, fully realized and, at times, remarkably funny. This book transported me from a rural folk music festival in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the narrator's New York. A profound portal. Riveting, dark, fully realized and, at times, remarkably funny. This book transported me from a rural folk music festival in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the narrator's New York. A profound portal.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chase Smith

    For a review of this book, please see the short essay I wrote on my blog: https://cmontanasmith.com/2016/06/24/... For a review of this book, please see the short essay I wrote on my blog: https://cmontanasmith.com/2016/06/24/...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Ok. Seems like the author won't own his relationship with his brother. Jumps around and hard to follow. Ok. Seems like the author won't own his relationship with his brother. Jumps around and hard to follow.

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