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When Ohio-born Pru Steiner arrives in New York in 1976, she follows in a long tradition of young people determined to take the city by storm. But when she falls in love with and marries 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 concentrat When Ohio-born Pru Steiner arrives in New York in 1976, she follows in a long tradition of young people determined to take the city by storm. But when she falls in love with and marries 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 to care for him. One day, feeling especially 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; and about how to survive when life turns out differently from what we thought we signed up for.


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When Ohio-born Pru Steiner arrives in New York in 1976, she follows in a long tradition of young people determined to take the city by storm. But when she falls in love with and marries 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 concentrat When Ohio-born Pru Steiner arrives in New York in 1976, she follows in a long tradition of young people determined to take the city by storm. But when she falls in love with and marries 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 to care for him. One day, feeling especially 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; and about how to survive when life turns out differently from what we thought we signed up for.

30 review for Morningside Heights

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    4.5 stars . This is an ordinary story in many ways about relationships, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, half siblings. At its heart, it’s a story about family. Life isn’t perfect and that’s precisely what makes this such a good story. The characters, their lives, their emotional response to each other and the things that happen are so relatable. What happens to them could happen in our family or in families we know. The progression of diminished mental and physical capacity in someone wit 4.5 stars . This is an ordinary story in many ways about relationships, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, half siblings. At its heart, it’s a story about family. Life isn’t perfect and that’s precisely what makes this such a good story. The characters, their lives, their emotional response to each other and the things that happen are so relatable. What happens to them could happen in our family or in families we know. The progression of diminished mental and physical capacity in someone with Alzheimer’s Disease, a debilitating illness that turns life upside down and makes one of the spouses a care giver after thirty years of marriage is sad and realistically portrayed. A child from a first marriage, feeling abandoned by his father, making his way with an unconventional and unstable life with his mother, becoming part of his father’s family at times, a reflection of the difficulties that life brings. That a family can rise to the challenges is a beautiful testament to love. There’s a nod to New York City, where the majority of the novel takes place, what it’s like to live there. There’s a reflection at times about the character’s Jewish heritage, giving up on a kosher home, returning at times to synagogue. This is such a well written novel, a realistic portrayal of marriage, of family, of life. I was moved. I received a copy of this book from Knopf Doubleday/Pantheon through NetGalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Poignant, well analyzed, realistically written bittersweet story with its well developed, layered middle class New Yorker characters. Such a great novel: Easy to read, easy to connect with the characters and understand things from their POVs. It starts with Pru and Spence’s meeting and blooming love story at the university. Pru is astonishing student with a brilliant career opportunities ahead of her and Spense is only 6 years older than her but he’s already her professor, published his succes Poignant, well analyzed, realistically written bittersweet story with its well developed, layered middle class New Yorker characters. Such a great novel: Easy to read, easy to connect with the characters and understand things from their POVs. It starts with Pru and Spence’s meeting and blooming love story at the university. Pru is astonishing student with a brilliant career opportunities ahead of her and Spense is only 6 years older than her but he’s already her professor, published his successful book, became guest on a show at PBS, the golden child and rising star of Columbia University. They fall for each other and as he asks her to marry with him, she doesn’t think twice even though his ex and his son are still in the picture. She also gives up her academic career because financially Spence’s book sales help them to buy a beautiful house and start a new family together. Now they have a daughter named Sarah and they let Arlo : Spense’s son from first marriage live with them even though this choice put them into complex situations. Arlo is not a bad kid but he made so many wrong choices because of his mother and it seems like her thoughts still affected him in negative way. He is also clever boy but he suffers from dyslexia which gives him more anxiety! And Spense is not the brilliant minded man Pru has married. He starts suffering from Alzheimer, slowly turning into a stranger. Pru starts to question and resent herself for giving up her career for her marriage and she meets with a man which pushes her harder to think about moving into a new life path. It’s emotional, truly powerful story reflect each family members’ perspectives genuinely. I’m giving my 4 New Yorker, complex, heart wrenching, sad, family drama stars! I enjoyed Joshua Henkin’s brilliant story telling skills and I’m looking forward to read more of his works in near future. Special thanks to Netgalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook….read by Kathe Mazur and Shane Baker …..8 hours and 58 minutes In 1972, Pru Steiner was eighteen when she arrived at Yale. She grew up in Ohio in a Jewish home, where her family kept kosher. In Ohio, Pru went to a small school that felt ‘too’ Jewish. At Yale, the school felt too big and not Jewish enough. To her own surprise, Pru continued to keep kosher. The Yale years moved quickly. Four years later, 1976, Pru was twenty-two. After graduation, she moved to New York to attend Columbia U Audiobook….read by Kathe Mazur and Shane Baker …..8 hours and 58 minutes In 1972, Pru Steiner was eighteen when she arrived at Yale. She grew up in Ohio in a Jewish home, where her family kept kosher. In Ohio, Pru went to a small school that felt ‘too’ Jewish. At Yale, the school felt too big and not Jewish enough. To her own surprise, Pru continued to keep kosher. The Yale years moved quickly. Four years later, 1976, Pru was twenty-two. After graduation, she moved to New York to attend Columbia University as a doctoral student. On her first day in her Shakespeare class, she meets her professor, Spence Robin, He was only six years older than Pru….the youngest professor in the English Dept. They begin seeing each other outside of class. They often met at a cafe called ‘Chock Full O’Nuts’ …where the coffee was bad-but the conversations and connection started to take hold. Spencer told Pru that he was Jewish, making him an attractive life contender. They soon fell in love - and got married - but not before Pru jumped through a hurdle of hoops to conquer the news that Spense Robin had once been married to a woman named Linda, and they had son named Arlo. Spence had been estranged from his son for 15 years. After marriage…. they have a child named Sarah. Eventually Arlo comes back into his fathers life and moves in with Spence, Pru, and Sarah. Thirty years later, in 2006, Spence, Fifty-seven years old is diagnosed with early stages Alzheimer’s. What makes this book great is the ease in which the story flows, the warmth and joy it is to follow, the relatable characters, conflicts, tensions, love, hope, and struggles against daunting days due to Spence’s declining health, painful revelations—about human behavior and a powerful look at the human heart. The humor is fresh, the complications of ‘in sickness & health’, is sad, but real and beautiful….. I also liked the feeling of eavesdropping (by invitation), in on private mutterings….. Sorrowful ….loving…..and very full of life. Hugely compassionate and enjoyable.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    5+ GLOWING STARS!!!! “Morningside Heights” blew me away as one of the best stories of a contemporary marriage grappling with the devastating damages of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Author Joshua Henkin expertly pens a story following the marriage of Pru and Spence Robin’s courtship and marriage which begins in the 1970’s. Prudence Steiner is pursuing her Ph.D. when she becomes involved with the youngest Professor at Columbia who teaches Shakespeare. He’s a noted genius and charming to boot. A 5+ GLOWING STARS!!!! “Morningside Heights” blew me away as one of the best stories of a contemporary marriage grappling with the devastating damages of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Author Joshua Henkin expertly pens a story following the marriage of Pru and Spence Robin’s courtship and marriage which begins in the 1970’s. Prudence Steiner is pursuing her Ph.D. when she becomes involved with the youngest Professor at Columbia who teaches Shakespeare. He’s a noted genius and charming to boot. After marriage, Spencer achieves two Guggenheims, a Mellon, and a MacArthur, and pens a notable book about Shakespeare that attains the NYTimes best seller list. At age 57, Spence starts notably to decline. Pru is 51. In her early 50’s she struggles with being a caretaker to her once highly intelligent, physically able spouse. For me, the moving part of this story is the marriage, the impact on the marriage. My heart broke for Pru. There’s more to the story than dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. The Robin’s marriage has it’s complications, as all do. Spence had a brief marriage to a bohemian woman with whom he has a son, Arlo. Arlo holds grudges based on his mother’s biased information about his father. As so happens in many divorces, one parent poison’s the child’s views which doesn’t help the child or the non-custodian parent. Henkin’s writes the relationship with insider nuance. Pru and Spencer work diligently to bring his son, Arlo, into their family fold. I absolutely love this story, although heart wrenching and sad. My husband does not have this disease, but while reading this, I felt like I was Pru or at least her best friend. I did identify with the destructive ex-spouse and working with the angry step-child. I was immersed in the story, struggled while they struggled, got frustrated when they were frustrated. I listened to the audio narrated by Kathe Mazur. I looked forward to my audio time, even when it brought tears to my eyes. When I can get my hands on a hard copy, I will read it. I think I would have adored it more if I read it. This is literature at it’s best, and reading literature, for me, is more fulfilling. 5+ glowing stars!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    One of the most satisfying reading experiences is when you feel that the writer is speaking directly to you and that, in a strange parallel universe, you are somehow connected. So it was with Morningside Heights, a novel about a superstar Shakespeare professor Spence who lives with his one-time doctoral student Pru —now his wife—their daughter Sarah and sometimes, his erstwhile son Arlo from a prior marriage. Spence possesses the trifecta of a good life: a happy marriage, critical acclaim for his One of the most satisfying reading experiences is when you feel that the writer is speaking directly to you and that, in a strange parallel universe, you are somehow connected. So it was with Morningside Heights, a novel about a superstar Shakespeare professor Spence who lives with his one-time doctoral student Pru —now his wife—their daughter Sarah and sometimes, his erstwhile son Arlo from a prior marriage. Spence possesses the trifecta of a good life: a happy marriage, critical acclaim for his work (he’s even earned a MacArthur!) and the means to live in Morningside Heights, where the median price for a home is close to a million dollars. But then, in his mid 50s, he gets felled by early-onset Alzheimer’s. And that changes everything. What makes this novel soar is its nuanced portrayal of the characters, who are so real they could walk off the pages. That connection I alluded to? As a New Yorker of Jewish descent, like Spence and Pru, I was forced to pay witness for 10 years to my superstar mom’s slow decline from dementia (in her case, Lewy Body Disorder). The authenticity of some of the scenes crafted by Joshua Henkin are amazingly accurate. The family dynamics are set up first, and those are beautifully crafted: the dynamic auburn-haired wunderkind professor who is a student favorite, the loving wife from an Orthodox Jewish background who places Spence ahead of her own career plans, the grounded daughter who is on her way to medical school and the dyslexic son, raised by Spence’s bohemian and narcissistic ex-wife, who struggles to fit into a family where intelligence and structure and ambition are all valued. When Spence begins to lose focus, each family member is affected, particularly Pru, who is forced to transform from a sometimes proud and worshipful wife to a protector and caregiver. The indignities of Alzheimer’s – from being forced out of a career to soiled pants and forgetfulness — are all written with nuance, as is Pru’s desire to find some sort of connection with someone else while honoring the bonds of her marriage vows. Ultimately, the book is about the detours we never expected to take in this journey we call life. I received an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Superb! Spence Robin, an Elizabethan scholar, was the youngest member of Columbia University's English department to receive tenure. He was a Mellon, Guggenheim, and MacArthur fellow and his book on Shakespeare found its way to the New York Times bestseller list. Then, at 57, he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. Morningside Heights chronicles Spence's life and decline by examining his relationships with his immediate family: wife, son, daughter, and sister. Joshua Henkin lost his Superb! Spence Robin, an Elizabethan scholar, was the youngest member of Columbia University's English department to receive tenure. He was a Mellon, Guggenheim, and MacArthur fellow and his book on Shakespeare found its way to the New York Times bestseller list. Then, at 57, he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. Morningside Heights chronicles Spence's life and decline by examining his relationships with his immediate family: wife, son, daughter, and sister. Joshua Henkin lost his father to Alzheimer's and described Spence's decline and its impact on the family in a manner that is painfully realistic. His prose is lean, and his characters so finely delineated that I felt I knew them. Heller McAlpen captured the book's essence in his Wall Street Journal review. He stated, "As in the best fiction, you come away from Morningside Heights reluctantly- attached to its characters and with a new understanding of what it is to be a feeling person dealing with life's unpredictability." Like, McAlpen, I remain haunted by the book's power. I highly recommend it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Holly R W

    "Morningside Heights" is a family drama of a secular Jewish family living in New York City. At the center are Spence and Pru, who meet each other and marry, creating a great marriage. Spence, a Shakespeare scholar, is a professor at Columbia University. He is charismatic and considered a genius. Pru herself is intelligent, but chooses to forgo a career in deference to him. They marry in the 1970's. Spence has a child, Arlo, from a short-lived, previous marriage. Arlo lives with his mother, but se "Morningside Heights" is a family drama of a secular Jewish family living in New York City. At the center are Spence and Pru, who meet each other and marry, creating a great marriage. Spence, a Shakespeare scholar, is a professor at Columbia University. He is charismatic and considered a genius. Pru herself is intelligent, but chooses to forgo a career in deference to him. They marry in the 1970's. Spence has a child, Arlo, from a short-lived, previous marriage. Arlo lives with his mother, but sees Spence and his family sporadically. He develops an ambivalent bond with them, which causes misunderstandings. Arlo is jealous of Spence and Pru's daughter (Sarah), who seems to be the apple of their eye. Each member of the family is engaging to read about, with the possible exception of Arlo. He does his best to upset and aggravate them. At times his behavior stinks (there's no other way to describe it.) Yet, even he has his charms. It is not a spoiler to say that Spence gets early onset dementia and his whole life changes with the illness. How each person in the family responds to his decline makes up a large part of the book. Given the subject matter, the book may not appeal to every reader. Here's why I liked it so much. The writing was original and there were many interesting developments in the story. I liked being surprised by the characters. Also, after having read many books about cultures different than my own, I enjoyed how the author portrayed a reform Jewish family, being Jewish myself. The novel is warm-hearted, witty and poignant. Highly recommend! Here is an interview with the author. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zw2Rg...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    We enter Pru and Spence's lives in a rush, the early years dealt with only glancingly, which caused me initially to wonder why so many readers whose opinions I trust were so high on this book. After hearing about it almost a year ago, salivating over its topicality and unable to snag an early ARC, I was thrilled when it finally became available. But after that inauspicious start, when Spence's early onset dementia begins to wreak its destruction on not just himself but his circle, the inner fort We enter Pru and Spence's lives in a rush, the early years dealt with only glancingly, which caused me initially to wonder why so many readers whose opinions I trust were so high on this book. After hearing about it almost a year ago, salivating over its topicality and unable to snag an early ARC, I was thrilled when it finally became available. But after that inauspicious start, when Spence's early onset dementia begins to wreak its destruction on not just himself but his circle, the inner fortitude and strong, unconventional familial connections caught me by the throat, and I could not put it down. Even the auxiliary players, each an original construct, were so well drawn that they came alive as real people, not merely characters. And of course the City of New York, almost a character itself, which held its magic over the entire story. Kudos.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nina Sankovitch

    I loved this book, a captivating chronicle of family love and family dysfunction, of the many ways we try to understand each other and how we fail, and yet we try again, and again. The love between parents, between siblings, between parents and children, between ex-wives and ex-husbands: all of it is explored in this wonderful and moving book. Like another reviewer, I read it in two days. I just could not put it down and the various characters will stay with me for a long time. Not only is this I loved this book, a captivating chronicle of family love and family dysfunction, of the many ways we try to understand each other and how we fail, and yet we try again, and again. The love between parents, between siblings, between parents and children, between ex-wives and ex-husbands: all of it is explored in this wonderful and moving book. Like another reviewer, I read it in two days. I just could not put it down and the various characters will stay with me for a long time. Not only is this an insightful and compelling story about family, but it is also a love song to New York City, an amazing place that allows so many very different people to live and love in close proximity, finding sustenance not only in each other but also in the city itself.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    4.5 Stars This story begins in the 1970’s in New York City, where 22-year-old Prudence Steiner is attending Columbia University, taking a course on Shakespeare taught by a 28-year-old professor, Spence Robin, a previously married and now divorced father of a young son. A relationship develops between them, much to the chagrin of many of the other female students. Eventually, a marriage follows, and eventually a daughter arrives. Meanwhile, Spence would love to spend more time than his ex allowed 4.5 Stars This story begins in the 1970’s in New York City, where 22-year-old Prudence Steiner is attending Columbia University, taking a course on Shakespeare taught by a 28-year-old professor, Spence Robin, a previously married and now divorced father of a young son. A relationship develops between them, much to the chagrin of many of the other female students. Eventually, a marriage follows, and eventually a daughter arrives. Meanwhile, Spence would love to spend more time than his ex allowed with his son, Arlo, named, of course, after Arlo Guthrie at his mother’s insistence. Arlo has lived a rather bohemian lifestyle, following his mother’s whims on where and how they live and who they live with. Arlo has never really been to school on a regular basis, his mother apparently believing he could learn on his own, despite having some degree of learning difficulties. As the years pass Arlo’s struggles with dyslexia improve, and eventually he takes a job at Yahoo, where his real genius quickly becomes apparent. Around the same time, the reason behind his father’s memory issues become more apparent when he is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. A story about families, life and the unexpected turns that life gives us. Some which are welcome, and others which are devastating. How we navigate those moments that shatter our beliefs, and leave us to traverse the grief and loss that follow. Many thanks to my friend Angela whose review prompted me to read this. Her review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Many thanks to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lins

    Oh, what a delight to instantly become immersed in Joshua Henkin’s latest novel, “Morningside Heights”! Henkin’s writing is so intimate and real; I was happily pulled into the fascinating story of this family, so beautifully rendered I felt as if I had become a part of it. First set in NYC in the mid-late 1970s, we are introduced to grad-student, Pru Steiner. Pru has always been attracted to older men and her (brilliant) Shakespeare professor, Spence Robin, though only 6 years her senior, quickly Oh, what a delight to instantly become immersed in Joshua Henkin’s latest novel, “Morningside Heights”! Henkin’s writing is so intimate and real; I was happily pulled into the fascinating story of this family, so beautifully rendered I felt as if I had become a part of it. First set in NYC in the mid-late 1970s, we are introduced to grad-student, Pru Steiner. Pru has always been attracted to older men and her (brilliant) Shakespeare professor, Spence Robin, though only 6 years her senior, quickly becomes the man of her dreams. Henkin creates characters with true grace and humane skill. I love a “fish out of water” story so I was mesmerized by Spence’s son, Arlo, from his first marriage as he moves in with Pru and Spence after living for years on a commune with his mother, Linda (another great character!) Because this is a story about a particular family (although Pru and Spence are the main characters), we are also privy to a look inside their daughter Sarah’s life, as well as Arlo’s; both when they all function as a family unit, and also when they move apart. Henkin’s stunning insight filled me with emotions on behalf of these characters, and of course, as good novels do, it had me reflecting on my own family and our similar experiences. Ultimately the story revolves around something that befalls Spence, that of course affects them all. Henkin vividly captures the shock, heartbreak, denial, and love that families – real and fictional – experience when faced with adversity. Every family is different, and we all deal with difficulties such as illness and financial problems differently, but I suspect it’s universal that for most of us, our lives don’t turn out exactly as we had planned or expected, and we can all relate to that.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marion

    I read the first two chapters of this book and I couldn’t stomach anymore. I have so much to say about this novel, but I don’t think a full-fledged analysis is what I should do right now. My brain was just constantly picking apart every little thing of the first two chapters, because I couldn’t fathom how this came into existence. There were issues on issues on issues and I don’t think I have the space to air them all. The two biggest issues I have are the A) the student- teacher romance and B) h I read the first two chapters of this book and I couldn’t stomach anymore. I have so much to say about this novel, but I don’t think a full-fledged analysis is what I should do right now. My brain was just constantly picking apart every little thing of the first two chapters, because I couldn’t fathom how this came into existence. There were issues on issues on issues and I don’t think I have the space to air them all. The two biggest issues I have are the A) the student- teacher romance and B) how the main female character, Pru, was written. There were lines in there that made me nauseous. I am a woman in my twenties, and in the first two chapters so was Pru. She was not written as a young woman, she was written by the author who wrote her as if he was a young woman. Those are two very different things and it was so clear and obvious to me that time was not spent on making her a believable young woman. The writing also was very, very poor. I think it is why I was so unsettled and unmoored by the first two chapters, as the writing did nothing to aid me in interpretation. Dialogue clogs up everything, and there are few descriptions. Multiple reviews call this heartfelt and emotional. This book was unfeeling and clunky. If the intent was to make this a story that could be interpreted in many different ways, that goal was not achieved and only brought confusion and, honestly, rage. I was left with so many questions, but my extreme discomfort made me not want any of them answered, in fear of what I would find. Finally, this book has gotten favorable reviews and a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Many goodreads reviews have also been granting extremely positive reviews. Some major novelists have also blurbed this. How on earth could this happen? I am in utter shock. I wish the author could have made it a nonlinear narrative or picked other themes to highlight rather than gender and womanhood. Jewish identity also seems to be a major theme, and I wish that would have become the focal point for Pru, rather than her attraction to older men that begins the book. Maybe if these things were changed, I would have wanted to finish it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vickie

    Although about a weighty subject, this is written in a rather breezy style which made it a very fast read. It is well crafted and realistic. Pru’s devotion to Spence is both admirable and painful. For me this is also a book of reminiscence…not only of Pru and Spence’s lives but also of a lost New York City….so many memorable places gone. Don’t let the topic put you off; it is a worthwhile read. In the vicissitudes of life, there is resilience.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    A masterful work of craft and honest look at the fragility and resiliency of the human spirit. My full review at Vol 1. Brooklyn: https://vol1brooklyn.com/2021/06/14/m... A masterful work of craft and honest look at the fragility and resiliency of the human spirit. My full review at Vol 1. Brooklyn: https://vol1brooklyn.com/2021/06/14/m...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This is a real and touching story about a well-loved Shakespeare teacher a Columbia who gets early onset Alzheimers. It's also a story about a complicated family with ex-wives and step-children and abandonment and love and belonging. It's also a love letter to New York City and its people. I've lived in New York for all of my twenties and the characters in this story jump off the paper and are real and textured. They try, they fail, and they try again. They let each other down, they love each ot This is a real and touching story about a well-loved Shakespeare teacher a Columbia who gets early onset Alzheimers. It's also a story about a complicated family with ex-wives and step-children and abandonment and love and belonging. It's also a love letter to New York City and its people. I've lived in New York for all of my twenties and the characters in this story jump off the paper and are real and textured. They try, they fail, and they try again. They let each other down, they love each other fiercely. They take care of each other. They stand by each other. They show up for each other. Each character in this book is unique and familiar and it's not possible not to fall in love with them. with gratitude to netgalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dana Sachs

    What happens to a family when the person who has been holding it together begins to fall apart? Joshua Henkin’s masterful Morningside Heights explores that question as Spence Robin, a renowned Shakespeare scholar, develops dementia. With Spence no longer able to give his university lectures, or even read the morning paper, his wife, daughter, and estranged son have to come together to help him through this last challenge of his life. And, though this is a story about dementia, it’s not a tragedy What happens to a family when the person who has been holding it together begins to fall apart? Joshua Henkin’s masterful Morningside Heights explores that question as Spence Robin, a renowned Shakespeare scholar, develops dementia. With Spence no longer able to give his university lectures, or even read the morning paper, his wife, daughter, and estranged son have to come together to help him through this last challenge of his life. And, though this is a story about dementia, it’s not a tragedy. Rather, it’s a warm and often funny novel about the ups and downs of life, and about how love, even complicated and difficult love, binds us together and elevates us. I imagine that many book clubs will select this novel because it offers so many intriguing avenues for discussion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carla Bayha

    The first page of Henkin’s engrossing novel has our protagonist meeting her life partner in Ann Arbor, so of course I’m going to continue reading it. The additional scenes that take place in Brooklyn, Columbus, San Francisco, Ames, Iowa and DC made me feel like I was being stalked. These are all places where I have a close family connection as well. But there is another oft-written story arc here, that many will also relate to: girl with promise throws her lot in with a “great man” and eventuall The first page of Henkin’s engrossing novel has our protagonist meeting her life partner in Ann Arbor, so of course I’m going to continue reading it. The additional scenes that take place in Brooklyn, Columbus, San Francisco, Ames, Iowa and DC made me feel like I was being stalked. These are all places where I have a close family connection as well. But there is another oft-written story arc here, that many will also relate to: girl with promise throws her lot in with a “great man” and eventually comes to question whether she sacrificed too much of herself when she did. Not only is Pru’s professor husband Spence somewhat older than she is, he comes with baggage- a troubled young son, a needy ex-wife, and a severely disabled sister, all of whom need financial assistance. Henkin concisely tells the backstory of these characters, including a hired caretaker and her son, as they come together to take care of Spence, who develops early onset Alzheimer’s. I can speak from personal experience to say that this part of the novel is authentic and heartbreaking. But if you are inclined to pass over books that hit too close to a remembered dark reality, do not. The author weaves his character’s stories into a web of acceptance, hope, and renewal that very much is what we need right now.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    I have been a fan of Joshua Henkin for years, and I loved this very readable novel. Spence Robin is a Shakespeare scholar who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. His wife, Pru Steiner, who is hilarious, is still deeply in love with Spence after many years of marriage and does everything possible to make sure Spence is treated with respect throughout the disease's progression. Their daughter, Sarah, is a medical student. Then there's Arlo, Spence's son from a short first marriage whose mot I have been a fan of Joshua Henkin for years, and I loved this very readable novel. Spence Robin is a Shakespeare scholar who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. His wife, Pru Steiner, who is hilarious, is still deeply in love with Spence after many years of marriage and does everything possible to make sure Spence is treated with respect throughout the disease's progression. Their daughter, Sarah, is a medical student. Then there's Arlo, Spence's son from a short first marriage whose mother is a self-centered vagabond. Arlo has always felt a complicated emptiness and resentment towards his father, mostly thanks to his mother. All of these characters come together for a story that I couldn't put down. I loved how the story was told in a unsentimental way, yet I felt their struggles, hope, pain and love.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Brilliant husband, smart enough wife, competitive daughter and technically-gifted stepson all circle one another through intimacy, anger, hostility and change. MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS uses Jewish characters to stage a story, mostly because of the ability to investigate multiple levels of belief throughout a lifespan. And these characters do move in and out of belief easily and frequently, their actions mostly defined by their surroundings. I wished for more in this tale; the characters seemed out of Brilliant husband, smart enough wife, competitive daughter and technically-gifted stepson all circle one another through intimacy, anger, hostility and change. MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS uses Jewish characters to stage a story, mostly because of the ability to investigate multiple levels of belief throughout a lifespan. And these characters do move in and out of belief easily and frequently, their actions mostly defined by their surroundings. I wished for more in this tale; the characters seemed out of reach and a touch trope-y. I didn’t find anyone particularly likeable or engaging. When illness strikes, the family adapts, in a somewhat predictable manner. The most compelling character is the aide who cares for the husband for a decade; I wanted her to succeed. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Thank you to BookBrowse.com and Pantheon for copy of Morningside Heights in exchange for my honest review. A variation of this review appears on BookBrowse.com. Joshua Henkin writes family dysfunction very well and this novel did not disappoint. Pru Steiner has subverted herself to her husband, starting with their affair when she was his Grad Student. Academic novels are my catnip, but the characters in this book felt too flat to me, not completely fleshed out. The estranged son from the prior r Thank you to BookBrowse.com and Pantheon for copy of Morningside Heights in exchange for my honest review. A variation of this review appears on BookBrowse.com. Joshua Henkin writes family dysfunction very well and this novel did not disappoint. Pru Steiner has subverted herself to her husband, starting with their affair when she was his Grad Student. Academic novels are my catnip, but the characters in this book felt too flat to me, not completely fleshed out. The estranged son from the prior relationship, Arlo, was just too depressing. The writing and descriptions kept me reading, but ultimately, I liked his prior novel, The World Without End better.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joey Gremillion

    Finished this book in two days. To say that Mr. Henkin’s storytelling is engaging is an understatement. It’s phenomenal.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Ames

    i really enjoyed this sharp, understated read! i was initially drawn to the book because it’s set in the titular morningside heights, my future home and i thoroughly loved reading about the energy of the neighborhood and henkin’s interpretation of campus culture at columbia and the descriptions of neighborhood haunts! this book is so quintessentially new york in so many ways. aside from that, dementia runs in my family and so that aspect of the novel hit home for me, as my family believes my gra i really enjoyed this sharp, understated read! i was initially drawn to the book because it’s set in the titular morningside heights, my future home and i thoroughly loved reading about the energy of the neighborhood and henkin’s interpretation of campus culture at columbia and the descriptions of neighborhood haunts! this book is so quintessentially new york in so many ways. aside from that, dementia runs in my family and so that aspect of the novel hit home for me, as my family believes my grandfather is in the early stages. the depiction of caretakers and the impact of dementia on families was heart wrenching and so so honest. the only thing that didn’t work for me were the time jumps and shifts in setting, as i had a hard time keeping track of the year and tracking the time line. overall, a beautiful story :))

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Grigsby

    A beautifully written book about the ravages of Alzheimers, especially on the people who love them.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    During my wedding rehearsal I giggled at ‘for richer and for poorer’. My future sisters-in-law had taken me aside and told nineteen-year-old-me that my husband would never make any money and it was up to me to have a money career, like data processing. My blue collar childhood wasn’t flush with money but I had what I needed. I was not motivated by money and I continued with my plans for an English major, a surefire guarantee of unemployability. But I didn’t think about ‘in sickness and in health’ During my wedding rehearsal I giggled at ‘for richer and for poorer’. My future sisters-in-law had taken me aside and told nineteen-year-old-me that my husband would never make any money and it was up to me to have a money career, like data processing. My blue collar childhood wasn’t flush with money but I had what I needed. I was not motivated by money and I continued with my plans for an English major, a surefire guarantee of unemployability. But I didn’t think about ‘in sickness and in health’ much then, and even 49 years later I still don’t dwell on it. My husband’s people are long lived; mine are not. But recently, my husband has become concerned. His brother, seven years older than him, has developed Alzheimer’s disease. Their dad became confused in his nineties, and their grandmother had mini-strokes and senility in her upper eighties. Now, he is worried. I suppose I should be, too. Especially after reading Joshua Henkin’s Morningside Heights, his novel about a woman who marries a brilliant, but eccentric, professor who is seven years her senior and develops early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The book is the story of Spence Robin and Pru Steiner’s whirlwind romance and marriage. Spence was Pru’s Shakespeare professor. She gave up her Ph.d for him. She has a boring job and they have a lovely daughter, Sarah. She plans to become a doctor. Spence has a child from an early marriage. Arlo struggles with an aging hippie mom and was raised in a commune, and without proper education to help his dyslexia. He moves in with his dad but has trouble adjusting to normal life, blending into the family, plus his dad seems more interested in raising a scholar than loving a son. He returns to life with his peripatetic mother. I loved these people, so very real and likeable. They have their troubles but they are the kind of problems that every family faces. Henkin’s insights into people have a touch of humor. A character realizes that “what we didn’t know could be as much a source of pride as what we did know.” Um, is he talking about me? The story turns somber when Spence develops signs of dementia and loses his position at Columbia. Pru must juggle work, caring for Spence, and the financial burden of round the clock care. And, the loneliness of a marriage to a man who can no longer provide companionship or affection. A man comes into Pru’s life and she must decide if she can turn to him for what Spence is no longer able to give, or if her vow to Spence does not allow bending to circumstances. It was here that I suddenly considered my husband’s brother’s wife. We saw them nearly a year ago, when his brother sat quietly docile, every now and then surprising us with a pertinent question. But this spring, they went on a trip, and on the plane going back home, he panicked and was hospitalized. What would I do, if my husband developed this dreadful disease? We don’t have the money for round the clock care. I don’t have the physical strength to aid a man who towers over me. Like Pru and Spence, we have one child to help out. What I love about Morningside Heights is that it is a story about a marriage that I can relate to and even be inspired by. The problem they encounter is tragic, leaving a brilliant man bereft of his intelligence and personality, but it’s not really a story about a disease. It’s a story about life and love and how we face the unimaginable. It’s about the friendships that support us along the way. How we all muddle through the best we can, staying true to ourselves and our values. What an inspiration. I received a free book from the publisher through the First Look Book Club. My review is fair and unbiased.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Haider

    At its core, Morningside Heights is a book about family and how they handle adversity. Pru came to NYC as a student ready to take on the world. She fell in love with her Shakespeare professor, Spence, who ended up leaving his wife and son for her. Fast forward 30 years, and we see Pru & Spence still living in NYC, while their daughter Sarah is out of state at med school. Pru notices that something is off with Spence. He is forgetting things, unable to pay attention and more. What does it mean wh At its core, Morningside Heights is a book about family and how they handle adversity. Pru came to NYC as a student ready to take on the world. She fell in love with her Shakespeare professor, Spence, who ended up leaving his wife and son for her. Fast forward 30 years, and we see Pru & Spence still living in NYC, while their daughter Sarah is out of state at med school. Pru notices that something is off with Spence. He is forgetting things, unable to pay attention and more. What does it mean when a man who is known for his great mind starts having cognitive issues? This was a thoughtful read about family and memory. Each section is told from a different point in their lives and shows a different aspect of their relationship. Clearly this family has complicated relationships like many real world families and through their tensions, they still care for each other. Any book about someone suffering from dementia and/or Alzheimers is always gut wrenching for me and this one was as well. What to listen to while reading... I Wanna Be Me by Sex Pistols The Only Living Boy in New York by Kishi Bashi Hey Hey, My My by Neil Young Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, and Nash Broken Arrow by Buffalo Springfield The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell It's Too Late by Carole King Tangled Up in Blue by Bob Dylan I Against I by Bad Brains Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell Thank you to the publisher for the review copy!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    3.5 stars. What a beautiful and tender story of family love amid adversity and hardship. Sometimes life doesn’t turn out as expected and how you deal with it determines your own survival. The story centers around Spence, a once well known and respected professor who slowly declines in health and mental awareness due to Alzheimers. The story was heartbreaking for me as my own father suffered from this disease. The author writes a powerful story filled with heart and compassion. I feel a little em 3.5 stars. What a beautiful and tender story of family love amid adversity and hardship. Sometimes life doesn’t turn out as expected and how you deal with it determines your own survival. The story centers around Spence, a once well known and respected professor who slowly declines in health and mental awareness due to Alzheimers. The story was heartbreaking for me as my own father suffered from this disease. The author writes a powerful story filled with heart and compassion. I feel a little emotional now.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    This book captured my interest from page 1. The story of Pru and her husband is so much like my own that reading this was both poignant and painful. Both of us living on the Upper Westside of Manhattan trying to believe that the earliest symptoms were quirkiness and eccentricity until it became abundantly clear it was Alzheimer’s. We both had stepsons and had dealt with McArthur awards. The characters are beautifully drawn and multi-dimensional. I loved everyone in this book. It does take a vill This book captured my interest from page 1. The story of Pru and her husband is so much like my own that reading this was both poignant and painful. Both of us living on the Upper Westside of Manhattan trying to believe that the earliest symptoms were quirkiness and eccentricity until it became abundantly clear it was Alzheimer’s. We both had stepsons and had dealt with McArthur awards. The characters are beautifully drawn and multi-dimensional. I loved everyone in this book. It does take a village to care for an Alzheimer’s patient and I loved Pru’s village! Obviously this well-written book pierced my heart. I cannot wait to share this with book groups. Pru was braver than me because I could never start over. Thank you Netgalley for this touching read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    tender, elegant and compassionate tale of familial love (and discord.) elegantly interwoven, gorgeously non-linear and well-constructed characters — I only wish it had driven me to a bit more viscerally emotional place.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    ”Pru, I’m afraid the end has come.” Morningside Heights is a story about ordinary people and the ordinary challenges that upend their ordinary lives. Spence and Pru seem to have it all - a fairytale start to their relationship, an enduring marriage, decent kids, career success, some measure of wealth. But much of that starts to crumble when Spence is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. This is the kind of book that could have been about anyone, perhaps someone you know, maybe even you ”Pru, I’m afraid the end has come.” Morningside Heights is a story about ordinary people and the ordinary challenges that upend their ordinary lives. Spence and Pru seem to have it all - a fairytale start to their relationship, an enduring marriage, decent kids, career success, some measure of wealth. But much of that starts to crumble when Spence is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. This is the kind of book that could have been about anyone, perhaps someone you know, maybe even you yourself. It’s a family drama, through and through: Joshua Henkin offers an examination of one particular family and all its members, up close & personal, through a literary zoom lens. If you’re drawn to books like this (like What Could Be Saved, without the mystery, or Good Eggs, without the humor), then you might really appreciate Morningside Heights. Henkin’s characters are fully fleshed out and easy to get to know, and their dialogue is intriguing and believable. And yet, despite excellent characterizations and relatable moments, the deep dives into mundane aspects of daily life (playing chess, kosher kitchens, etc.) didn’t compensate for the lack of any real plot. Readers who prefer character-driven novels (like Good Company or Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance) will appreciate the slow burn of this book, but readers craving action and momentum will likely struggle to stay engaged. In places, the book raises good questions about how we attach dignity and worth to human lives when minds and bodies begin to break down. But it took so many trails and sidewinding ways to get there, that it became difficult for me to focus and remain interested in the characters lives. But if I’m honest with myself, I think I hoped to find something incredibly meaningful here, the way Fredrik Backman takes everyday life, and even minor-key tragedies, and weaves those narratives into something worthy of celebration... and I didn’t find it. In truth, I simply felt like an outside observer, peeking in on the characters at their varying stages of life, and then turning and walking away at the book’s close, as if nothing had happened. Sure, there were moments of worry, of optimism, of loss, of drudgery, as in any ordinary life, but I didn’t feel as though it all tied together to make a larger, greater claim with any sort of lasting impact.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I won this book on Goodreads. It is the story of a man who has alzeimer’s and journey along with his wife’s. While it had a good story, it is super depressing.

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