by Bonnie Nadzam
4.4 11


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Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590514375
Publisher: Other Press, LLC
Publication date: 09/13/2011
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 665,141
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.56(h) x 0.86(d)

About 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.

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Lamb 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
David Lamb is a middle-aged man disappointed in life, having recently been asked to take a long break from his job, suffered the death of his father, and having failed in a romantic relationship. So he's got a lot of pent-up hurt and anger inside; at least that's how it feels to the reader. It's not too long before the reader realizes he or she is not breathing often with fear and puzzlement. For David Lamb initially decides to teach 11 year-old Tommie a lesson when she, while her friends are watching, sashays up to him and asks for a cigarette. How he does it is shocking and mind-numbing, eliciting from the reader frantically passing questions about his sanity and her audacity. This is the pace and tone that unremittingly flows in the following pages. Nadzam has presented what would be a character study of an innocent man trying to simply respond to life as it appears, to find some sense of normalcy in life. Giving something of that nature to Tommie is how David sees something valuable he has to offer. However, kidnapping an 11 year-old girl and rationalizing his way into her life as providing some love and stability, given the lack of some in her own background and present family life, is debatable and never quite convincing as the reader's mind keeps thinking this is all wrong and rather perverse, albeit not overtly so sexually. Off they travel to the West where David seeks to introduce Tommie to the wild and free wilderness or camp life that turns out to be quite different from what both expect! His girlfriend even manages to show up and become a temporary part of this "family." David says it best, "There is a small person inside of him wishing to tell Tommie all about it and then another person inside of him crushing the wishes like empty beer cans against a cinder-block wall." But still he tries, knowing he will return Tommie to her mother. As their journey proceeds, other memories keep interfering with his plan and make him say things wise, foolish and confusing to Tommie's young ears. At the same time, this is more attention and care than Tammy's parents have given her in her entire life. Perhaps a glimpse inside this complex man or would-be Daddy (and more?) will touch this young girl's life in a positive way forever? Will she ultimately love or hate David long after she returns home? Read and decide! Lamb is not a novel to like or dislike. It is a thriller that is more about inner thoughts and feelings, about communicating same to another hungry to hear and feel worthy of attention. It makes the reader begin to fully ponder the depth of character in humanity, not easily definable and yet more worthy because of the effort to understand and let the complexity lie as it is without judgment. Lamb is a risky but gripping read for sure!
John_O_Espinoza More than 1 year ago
Bonnie Nadzam has written a book, a terrific one, that is as beautiful as it is uncomfortable. She has crafted with care a character, the eponymous David Lamb, who is charismatic as he is conniving. Shortly after attending his father's funeral, Lamb meets Tommie in a CVS parking lot. Tommie is an 11-year old girl, all potbelly and rib cage. When Tommie approaches Lamb for a cigarette after her friends egg her on, Lamb's reaction is to play a trick on them, making like he is kidnapping her. This happens on page 14 and my hands begin sweating and they don't stop until I put down the book. He escorts the girl into his car but drops her off at home without harm done to her. From this point on, Lamb and Tommie form an unlikely friendship meeting clandestinely several times over several weeks. With his father gone, his marriage dissolved, and his coworker-turned-lover, Linnie, at risk of losing her job at the firm because of her sexual involvement with David, Lamb concocts a plan to abduct Tommie to his cabin in the Rocky Mountains because "this sudden and unusual friendship-might be the only bright spot, the only break in her otherwise unscripted life." The delusional David firmly believes the whisking away Tommie is the best thing that can happen to her. This is not hard to accomplish being that Tommie is neglected at home, self-conscious, and impressionable. Lamb buries in her mind images of undivided attention and tenderness in order to persuade her to abscond with him. David Lamb's language is elegant, but the undertone is creepy, and Nadzam reaches poetic heights when writing his dialogue. Lamb is what Robert Greene categorizes as a "rake" in his book, Art of Seduction: "He chooses words for their ability to suggest, insinuate, hypnotize, elevate, infect.The Rake's use of language is demonic because it is designed not to communicate or convey information but to persuade, flatter, stir emotion turmoil, much as the serpent in the Garden of Eden used words to lead Eve into temptation." We get the sense that Lamb's mistress Linnie also fell victim to his rakish words. In the book, the myth of the West is a stand in for David Lamb's life. Lamb builds up in Tommie's mind the West as an idyllic place of expanse, pristine wilderness, and autonomy, but instead we get barbwire, glassless windows, and "boots caked with mud and manure." Like Lamb's life, the West comes short of its expectations. The plot to the novel is straightforward and moves lyrically. Lamb and Tommy leave Chicago for the Rockies. On the road at Lamb's insistence, they must improvise new identities to evade suspicion when they must stop in towns for food and supplies; all the while, sexual tension builds between the middle-aged man and the prepubescent girl. The novel turns into one of suspense and the author is deft in maintaining it. It culminates when their suspicious neighbor at the cabin scrutinizes Lamb's involvement with Tommie (acting as uncle-cum-niece), all the wile, Linnie arrives at the cabin forcing Lamb to keep Tommie furtive in a shed for over a day. Will Tommie be extracted from a grotesque situation, or will she be left under the influence and control of Lamb?
harstan More than 1 year ago
Near Chicago, fiftyish David Lamb's wife Cathy left him. Soon after that his father dies. Depressed and grieving, David no longer cares about his job. In a strip mall convenience store lot, seventh grader Sydney persuades her friend Tommie to bum a cigarette off of David. He lectures the eleven years old girl for her foolish behavior, but gives her a cigarette. David convinces Tommie to teach her friends a lesson. They pretend he is abducting her, but instead he takes her home. Tommie is stunned as Sydney and the others act indifferent to her kidnapping. David and Tommie begin to see one another as friends until they take a ride to his empty family house in Colorado. With a loose nod to Lolita, Lamb is a terrific character study of a lonely middle age adult and the tweener he "mentors". David use of the defense mechanism rationalization that he's providing her a wider experience to defend his time with her enhances the deep look at a very disturbed person. The Colorado neighbors snoop on the odd couple, but readers will wonder whether they will contact authorities or just satiate morbid curiosity. Although David's adult girlfriend's behavior appears almost as odd as that of her boyfriend, fans will appreciate a profound look at a mentally ill person. Harriet Klausner
Lilac_Wolf More than 1 year ago
A Lilac Wolf and Stuff Review Just so we're clear, I bought this one after finishing Lions. Bonnie truly is a talented writer. Lamb is about a guy whose life feels like it's spinning out of his control. His wife kicked him out, he might lose his job, his father dies...and he didn't exactly have a great childhood to begin with. You aren't going to like David Lamb, but God help us, you do feel some sympathy for him. The girl is 11, and isn't having a great childhood either. In a hurry to grow up. She actually chooses to go with Lamb, whom she knows as Gary. And Gary tells himself this to make himself feel better. But let's be honest, she isn't in a position to make such a choice, that's why kids have parents, right? It clearly isn't something he does on a regular basis, but when she came up to him...he couldn't resist the power she awarded him. He could get her to do anything he wanted. Bonnie Nadzam does a great job of weaving in how inappropriate the whole thing is without being profane. Tommie - the girl - for her part, is just hungry for attention. I get that. But David/Gary...he is a master manipulator and he just grows more and more repugnant. I think the book's description got it just right, David is narcissistic, he's a good guy and none of the bad in his life is his fault. This is incredibly fast paced, without any real downtime. It just keeps clipping along, and as I warned before, it is NOT a happy story, but it is captivating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Patito_de_Hule More than 1 year ago
Interesting character study - not for me Lamb hits a mid-life crisis when his wife divorces him for infidelity and his father passes away. Just after his father's funeral, he meets Tommie - an 11-year-old girl who desperately needs guidance. Lamb is strangely attracted to the girl - he wants to help her seize life, he wants to buy her presents and make her happy. Then, with Tommie's consent, he abducts her.  I had a really hard time deciding how to rate Lamb. The narrative was intriguing - almost addictive - but the subject matter was very disturbing. I had a hard time putting it down because I wanted to know how it would end. I felt compelled to keep reading despite a deepening sense of unease. From the subject, I should have known it would make me feel that way, but I thought it would be a book with more hope in it. I respect the way Nadzam kept the details subtle. There were no highly disturbing scenes (well, there was ONE scene that was a bit disturbing, but it could have been much, much worse). My recommendation - read this book if you would enjoy looking at pedophilia from another perspective, but avoid it if this is a sensitive topic for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bwitchd3 More than 1 year ago
Now, to get this out of the way, there is nothing untoward or sexual happening between these characters. David is misguided, but by no means a predator. So, you have permission to enjoy this story for what it is: an adventure. This book has no chapters, just breaks in the paragraphs, and this layout fits perfectly with their journey. There is no time to breathe, no time to pause and think. They just keep going. That’s what this story does, it just keeps going. 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.
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
David Lamb is no stranger to hardships. His marriage failed miserably and he¿s just buried his father. While taking a moment after the funeral to gather his thoughts, eleven-year-old Tommie stumbles into his path. She¿s all limbs and freckles, yet there¿s something about the girl that Lamb finds inviting. He decides to take her on a trip. To show her all the things that I girl her age should experience at least once. "And there was nothing wrong with all that, was there? With a guy like him, buying a kid like her a nice lunch, spoiling her a little? It was good for her. It was just a little tonic for his poisonous heart." Although it might sound like a re-telling of Lolita, it is far from that. Lamb is a delicately written novel that explores appropriateness and friendship in a way that at times has you questioning Lamb¿s true intentions. Tommie is hitting that awkward tween stage where every question is answered with a shrug. She¿s seemingly floating along without direction, so when Lamb offers her a trip to his cabin, a place where she can experience everything a young girl her age should, it doesn¿t take long for her to decide that it¿s what she wants to do. In Lamb¿s eyes, he¿s giving her the guidance and attention she so desperately needs. In her eyes, she¿s getting out of her Godforsaken town to see the world. When they begin their trip, it¿s impossible to know what his intentions are. Early into the novel, I felt sure that he was having some sort of a nervous breakdown and although the decision to take the trip was not a wise one, I could see his logic and his reasons for wanting to take it. But as the trip progresses, and as they get to know one another, insecurities and all, things take a turn and that is where I began to question if Tommie was going to make it out of this okay. These moments of doubt were excruciating to read. I literally had internal conversations with myself over what was going on. What disturbed me more, is that there were times where I found myself relating to Lamb. Making excuses for him, if you will. Somehow I wanted this trip to be okay and for them both to be better for having taken it. What makes this novel so complex is that Lamb is good for her, as she is good for him. But what makes this a dangerous, edgy tale is the fact that this fifty-something has taken an eleven-year-old girl across the country and against his better judgement, has fallen in love with her. All of a sudden, his care of her becomes a slightly dark, disturbing affair that had me sitting uneasily on the edge of my seat. When you find your soulmate, does age matter? I got mad at myself for even asking such a question but that is what Nadzam does. She works her magic and makes you question right and wrong. I can¿t go into anymore detail than that, because you must read it to get the full effect, but when a book like this has you cheering for the old guy, you stop and take notice. Lamb is wonderfully complex and rich. It¿s everything that I look for in a book. Content Note: If you shun books that center around child molestation, do not let that keep you from reading this book. This book (in my opinion) does not fall into that category and is not graphic in any way.
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