Lucy Lehman has a secret. Everybody
loves her eccentric family but nobody knows what's really going
on. Her mother is a beautiful dance teacher, whose creative movement
classes can calm the most incorrigible Bronx delinquents. Her
father, just returned from World War Two, is a working class hero.
The trouble is, he’s still at war. More familiar with battle
fields than a home with a wife and kids, he does combat with neighbors,
his employers, his children, and above all his wife. A charming
oddball in the straight-laced 1950’s, Tippy Lehman is overwhelmed
by her husband's war, leaving the kids to hold home and family
together.Told with wit, understanding, and remarkable pluck, The
War at Home is part memoir, part novel, and all heart as it recounts
the story of an inseparable brother and sister flourishing despite
a household in which insanity is the norm. Every page summons
the lost world of the outer boroughs of New York City in the 1950's,
where apartment houses tower over abandoned orchards, lonely kids
roam the woods of Bronx Park unafraid, and the Bronx River ripples
with the hope of Huckleberry Finn's Mississippi.
"Nora Eisenberg's engaging debut novel takes place in the
years after the heroine's father has returned from World War II
only to ravage his own family. Eisenberg's "memoir-novel"
recounts the savagery that family members can and do dole out
to one another… With her spiky, keening prose, Eisenberg
depicts the world from a child's point of view, deftly mixing
nostalgia and knock-kneed vulnerability."
—The Washington Post Book World
"Nora Eisenberg paints an intriguing portrait of a red-diaper
childhood in a bygone middle-class Bronx...establishing through
the wide-eyed point of view of 6- year-old Lucy Lehman an unconventional,
darker side of post-World War II America."
—The Boston Globe
"Ralph and Tippy Lehman, the parents in this touching autobiographical
first novel of a Bronx childhood, give new meaning to the word
eccentric as they careen from one wild scenario to another. Ralph
is the World War II-decorated father whose "battle fatigue"
so clouds his thinking that he sometimes mistakes his wife and
children for the enemy. In addition to the war in his mind, the
war between Ralph and Tippy flares up periodically and they inflict
wounds on each other and on the kids, Lucy and Nicky. No ordinary
1950’s mother, Tippy is a temperamental artist who breathes
drama and culture like oxygen and descends into pills and madness
in the latter half of the book. Lucy and Nicky mostly raise themselves,
weathering storms, neglect and abuse at home and, in many cases,
caring for their parents. Their self-reliance and fearlessness
are remarkable. To smooth out the narrative’s rough edges,
Eisenberg (English, CUNY) weaves in patches of tranquility, moments
of hope, and comic relief. This poignant and unforgettable first
novel deserves the widest possible audience."
—Library Journal, Starred Review
"Billed as a "memoir-novel," this book by Bronx
native Eisenberg is a tenderly written yet harrowing portrayal
of a family’s disintegration in the years after World War
II. Lucy Lehman is just a child when her father returns from the
war. According to Lucy’s mother, Tippy, he was once a sweet
young man, but now he is angry and violent, his screaming rages
most frequently directed at Lucy’s rebellious older brother,
Nick, and Tippy, a children’s dance instructor (her real-life
image graces the book’s cover). When Lucy is 10, whatever
tacit agreement the family had abruptly ends, and her father leaves
the house and shacks up with a mistress named Liberty in the first
of several dalliances. This development throws Tippy into a downward
spiral of prescription drug abuse and bizarre, erratic behavior
that forces Lucy and 13-year-old Nick to fend for themselves.
To escape the "chaos of home," they rely on their self-sufficiency
as volunteer gardeners at a park and botanical garden and then
at the family’s Camp Pohogo, where a parental reunion occurs.
The reunion, however, like most of Eisenberg’s book, remains
joyful only for a fleeting moment. By Lucy’s teen years,
Tippy’s over-the-top rampages (à la Mommie Dearest)
force brother and sister to run away, and though Nick revels in
his independence, Lucy eventually returns and decides to face
womanhood back in the hopeless reality of life with Mom in the
Bronx. There are no blue skies in Eisenberg’s barely fictionalized
and often excessively grim account, and this would prove daunting
if her prose weren’t so graceful. A powerfully somber meditation
on the indelible mark of familial strife on children, this impressive
first novel is infused with genuine compassion and sorrow."
"No punches are pulled in this gritty "memoir novel"
by Eisenberg, who draws on her own Bronx upbringing to depict
a nightmare. Eisenberg’s tale is so poignant that it’s…Painful
to read, yet hard to put down; a family drama akin to those of
"Lucy Lehman wins our hearts. She is resilient, she is smart,
she is loving. No ordinary coming-of-age story…[this] is,
in fact, a harrowing story, albeit one told with humor and compassion.
One that, despite the pain that continuously breaks through like
grass on an abandoned stretch of cement, ends triumphantly."
—The St Petersburg Times
"The War at Home is one of those accidental gifts for which
one feels grateful, a powerful novel, superbly crafted."
—Forward, America's Jewish Newspaper
"Remarkable. Thrillingly well-crafted. A brilliant novel."
—Robert Olen Butler
"This is a profoundly moving and intelligent evocation of
the magnificent terrors of family life, the ones that bind us
to childhood forever: beautifully written, deeply felt."
"The War at Home is a novel of a child's brave journey though family
madness, war and peace. Nora Eisenberg suffuses this story with
the haunting immediacy of a first-rate memoir. The time is the
late forties and fifties. The landscape is the Bronx, whose parks
and gardens are mythicized as romantically as Bronte's English
moors. This is an original, startling, and compelling novel."
"The War at Home is a vivid account of the domestic battleground
as seen through the eyes of a sensitive child. Nora Eisenberg
brings wisdom and acuity to an eccentric, ramshackle family whose
warriors are bound by the intense love and loathing only blood
ties can engender."
—Lynne Sharon Schwatrz
"What an amazing book! I found myself laughing out loud
at many of Eisenberg's beautifully crafted zingers and at other
times swept away by the poignancy of the family drama and the
brilliant recreation of the past. This memoir-novel—the
triumph of a survivor—is essential reading for our times--rich
in humor, understanding, forgiveness—and most of all—full
Check out an interview about Nora Eisenberg's
Eisenberg is a Professor of English at the City University
of New York (LaGuardia). Her work has appeared in The Partisan
Review, The Village Voice Literary Supplement, Choice
and Tikkun. She is the co-author of four popular books
on writing, most recently The Questioning Reader (Allyn
& Bacon). She lives with her family in Manhattan. Her
latest novel, Just the Way You Want
Me published by Leapfrog was given Foreword Magazine's Best Novel of the Year Gold Award.
More about Nora
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