Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam | Paperback | Barnes & Noble


4.3 10
by Bonnie Nadzam

View All Available Formats & Editions

Winner of the 2011 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

Lamb traces the self-discovery of David Lamb, a narcissistic middle aged man with a tendency toward dishonesty, in the weeks following the disintegration of his marriage and the death of his father. Hoping to regain some faith in his own goodness, he turns his attention to Tommie, an awkward


Winner of the 2011 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

Lamb traces the self-discovery of David Lamb, a narcissistic middle aged man with a tendency toward dishonesty, in the weeks following the disintegration of his marriage and the death of his father. Hoping to regain some faith in his own goodness, he turns his attention to Tommie, an awkward and unpopular eleven-year-old girl. Lamb is convinced that he can help her avoid a destiny of apathy and emptiness, and even comes to believe that his devotion to Tommie is in her best interest. But when Lamb decides to abduct a willing Tommie for a road trip from Chicago to the Rockies, planning to initiate her into the beauty of the mountain wilderness, they are both shaken in ways neither of them expects.
   Lamb is a masterful exploration of the dynamics of love and dependency that challenges the boundaries between adolescence and adulthood, confronts preconceived notions about conventional morality, and exposes mankind’s eroded relationship with nature.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lolita gets a 21st-century spin in this gripping debut. Unlike Humbert Humbert, David Lamb is not obsessed with underage girls but stumbles across one. David's wife has left him, his father has died, and his work life is in shambles when outside a strip mall he meets a seventh-grade girl, "a pale little freckled pig with eyelashes" named Tommie, whom he entices into a pretend kidnap game "to scare" her friends. What he does once he gets her in his car is drive her home, but he also continues to meet her and give her rides to school. Their friendship intensifies, leading to a road trip, "Just a little secret trip in your secret life," from Chicago to an abandoned family house of David's in rural Colorado. There they hole up and eat beans, eggs, and junk food while Tommie's mother has no idea where she is. What David promises the 11-year-old is a fantasy, and he comes across as a father figure, a friend, but at times something far more creepy. With Colorado neighbors snooping, the questions become, how far will this go and what will happen if anyone finds out? Nadzam has a crisp, fluid writing style, and her dialogue is reminiscent of Sam Shepard's. The book suffers from the inevitable Nabokov comparison, but it's a fine first effort: storytelling as accomplished as it is unsettling. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“Only an immensely promising young writer could bestow such grace on such troubled characters.” —Boston Globe
“A beautiful book. Nadzam’s sentences are admirably clipped and controlled, nesting the emotional turmoil of its two subjects within the stability of their natural surroundings.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Beautifully written.” —More Magazine, Editor’s Picks: The Hottest Fall Novels

“Brilliant, dark and very disturbing…In this stunning debut, Nadzam takes a lot of risks, and the results are thrilling.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer 

“Nadzam pulls off a neat trick here…While kneejerk comparisons to Lolita are inevitable, David Lamb is playing a different game than Humbert Humbert.” — The Daily Beast, “Great Weekend Reads”
“Surprisingly tender, highly inappropriate…Nadzam deserves credit for her convincing portrait of a middle-aged male burnout…[Lamb] is difficult and beautiful, and though it may not be normal, it feels very real.” —Time Out New York
“In Bonnie Nadzam’s deliciously dark novel Lamb, the author digs deeper into the human urges that drive us to deviant extremes. Instead of taking the lurid turn of Lolita, Nadzam cracks tougher truths.” —Royal Young,

“Unnerving and haunting.” —Daily Candy
“A remarkably gentle first novel about the brutality of self-discovery.” —Shelf Awareness
“Lolita gets a 21st-century spin in this gripping debut… Nadzam has a crisp, fluid writing style, and her dialogue is reminiscent of Sam Shepard’s…it’s a fine first effort: storytelling as accomplished as it is unsettling.” —Publishers Weekly

“A disturbing and elusive novel about manipulation and desperate friendship.” —Kirkus Reviews 

“Compelling…[Lamb] will find an audience among serious readers.” —Library Journal

“Bonnie Nadzam manages to write gorgeous prose about people and skies and mountains while still creating tension and suspense on the level of a thriller, while also walking us into complex and delicate and unsettling moral territory with brilliant subtlety and insight. Lamb is a remarkable debut, by a writer to watch. I will be thinking about these characters for a long time.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Lamb is one of the most powerful and original novels I have read in years. Beautiful, evocative, and brilliant.” —T.C. Boyle, author of When the Killing’s Done

Lamb is a wonder of a novel. Bonnie Nadzam has offered an exploration of interpersonal and sexual manipulation and power that left me reeling. This is a novel about responsibility, complicity, blame, neglect, and finally love.” —Percival Everett, author of I Am Not Sidney Poitier and Erasure

“Every sentence in Bonnie Nadzam’s Lamb teaches us about love, necessity, and the mysteries of the heart. I am haunted by her two protagonists, and by the journey they take together. This utterly compelling novel has launched a major new voice in American fiction.” —David Mason, author of Ludlow

“Bonnie Nadzam’s debut is gripping, gorgeous, and utterly original. The disturbing story resists easy categorization, challenging what we think we know about childhood, adulthood, pain, beauty, and love. This book will jolt you awake.” —Anna North, author of America Pacifica

“Throughout the novel, Nadzam keeps the reader off-balance, veering between sympathy and repulsion for Lamb and his actions. Lamb puts an original spin on the traditional myth of the West through modern-day characters who long to be "saved" and renewed by the Rocky Mountain landscape.” —High Country News

"The reader has no time to wonder what’s going to happen next, Nadzam just pushes the reader into the characters’ lives and forces them forward until they reach the end. This tale will make you question yourself, your virtues, your perceptions of society, and by the end, you still may not have any answers. And that’s okay." -The Examiner

"Lamb is a complex and beautifully crafted tale...A delightful creepiness extends throughout this novel, but there are also moments of soft, quiet, beauty. That Nadzam managed all of this in her first novel is extraordinary."—NomadReader

Library Journal
At once fantastic and all too believable, this unusual debut novel moves at the unsettling pace of a psychological thriller. The narrative tracks the long trip taken by middle-aged David Lamb and Tommie, the 11-year-old girl he meets and coerces to accompany him from Chicago to the Rockies in the weeks following the disintegration of his marriage and the death of his father. Nadzam sets out to show us that Lamb doesn't consciously make bad decisions. Gifted at delusion and desperate to regain faith in himself, Lamb is convinced that his attentions are in Tommie's best interests—if not for him and his bounty, the pathetic, unattractive little girl would never experience beauty. And if not for her, he thinks, his world would reflect only darkness and deception. VERDICT A compelling variation on a disturbing but all-too-familiar theme that will find an audience among serious readers.—Joyce J. Townsend, Pittsburg, CA
Kirkus Reviews

A journey novel that gets increasingly creepier the further west we go.

The title refers to David Lamb, who's recently lost his father, and who has had an inadvertent encounter with 11-year-old Tommie, a girl dared by her two friends to bum a cigarette off of David outside a convenience store. Fifty years old, lonely and now detached (in all ways) from his job, David turns the tables on Tommie's friends by colluding with her in pretending to abduct her for a brief period of time. After he lets her go—and after Tommie finds out that her friends don't care one way or the other whether she's been kidnapped—David and Tommie decide to get away for a while. They head west from the dreary Chicago suburb where they live—on the lam (Lamb?) as it were—and try to find a more open, congenial and attractive space in which to let their lives unfold. David emerges as a disturbing character whose intentions are never quite clear. His interest in Tommie is borne out of his loneliness, and while their relationship flirts with the sexual, it never explicitly crosses over—though Nadzam skillfully holds out the possibility that it might. David's self-professed motivation is to expose Tommie to a wider, more uncommon world than she would ever encounter around Chicago, and he succeeds in doing this. Complicating the relationship between David and Tommie is the rather unrealistic intrusion of David's girlfriend Linnie, an alluring woman whose attraction to him is bewildering. Toward the end of the novel, David confesses to Tommie that his exposure to some less-than-nice people has made him "behave a little erratically sometimes..."—and it's clear this is an understatement.

A disturbing and elusive novel about manipulation and desperate friendship.

Product Details

Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 5.56(h) x 0.86(d)

Read an Excerpt

Lamb rubbed his temple and thought he might sit down right there in the parking lot, wait to see who’d come for him or who would ask him to move, but when he turned away from the wake of traffic to light the cigarette, he saw the girl.
   She was coming toward him in a crooked purple tube top and baggy shorts and brassy sandals studded with rhinestones. She carried a huge pink patent-leather purse and was possibly the worst thing he’d seen all day. Scrawny white arms and legs stuck out of her clothes. The shorts hung around her pelvic bones, and her stomach stuck out like a filthy, spotted white sheet. The skin on her belly, God, that sheen of purple filth sprayed across her flesh. It was grotesque. It was lovely. Freckles concentrated in bars across her cheekbones and down the tiny ridge of her nose and the slightest protruding curve of her forehead just above her eyebrows. There were huge freckles, pea-sized, and smaller ones. Some faint, others dark, overlapping like burnt confetti on her bare shoulders and nose and cheeks. He stared at her. He had never seen anything like it.
   “Hi.” She had a little gap between her teeth, and her eyes were wide set, and she had one of those noses with perfectly round nostrils. She was a pale little freckled pig with eyelashes. “I’m supposed to ask you for a cigarette.”
   Behind her, huddled near the trashcan up against the brick wall of the CVS, three girls were watching in a bright little knot of bangles and short shorts and ponytails. He looked at the girl. Her chewed and ratted fingernails. Her small feet in shoes two or three sizes too big for her. Her mother’s shoes, he supposed. He felt a little sick. 
   “What is this,” he said. “Some kind of dare?”

Meet the Author

Bonnie Nadzam was born in Cleveland, went to high school in suburban Chicago, and has moved continually westward since then. She studied English literature and environmental studies at Carleton College, and earned an MA and PhD from the University of Southern California. Her fiction and poetry have been published in The Kenyon Review, The Mississippi Review, Story Quarterly, Callaloo, The Alaska Quarterly Review, and others. She taught at Colorado College, where she served for two years as the Daehler Fellowin Creative Writing. She is married to her childhood love and lives with him in the Rocky Mountains.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >