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A heady, inventive, fantastical novel about the nature of memory and the difficulty of confronting trauma An unnamed woman checks into a guesthouse in a mysterious district known only as the Subdivision. The guesthouse’s owners, Clara and the Judge, are welcoming and helpful, if oddly preoccupied by the perpetually baffling jigsaw puzzle in the living room. With little more A heady, inventive, fantastical novel about the nature of memory and the difficulty of confronting trauma An unnamed woman checks into a guesthouse in a mysterious district known only as the Subdivision. The guesthouse’s owners, Clara and the Judge, are welcoming and helpful, if oddly preoccupied by the perpetually baffling jigsaw puzzle in the living room. With little more than a hand-drawn map and vague memories of her troubled past, the narrator ventures out in search of a job, an apartment, and a fresh start in life. Accompanied by an unusually assertive digital assistant named Cylvia, the narrator is drawn deeper into an increasingly strange, surreal, and threatening world, which reveals itself to her through a series of darkly comic encounters reminiscent of Gulliver’s Travels. A lovelorn truck driver . . . a mysterious child . . . a watchful crow. A cryptic birthday party. A baffling physics experiment in a defunct office tower where some calamity once happened. Through it all, the narrator is tempted and manipulated by the bakemono, a shape-shifting demon who poses a distinctly terrifying danger. Harrowing, meticulous, and deranged, Subdivision is a brilliant maze of a novel from the writer Kelly Link has called “a master of the dark arts.” With the narrative intensity and mordant humor familiar to readers of Broken River, J. Robert Lennon continues his exploration of the mysteries of perception and memory.


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A heady, inventive, fantastical novel about the nature of memory and the difficulty of confronting trauma An unnamed woman checks into a guesthouse in a mysterious district known only as the Subdivision. The guesthouse’s owners, Clara and the Judge, are welcoming and helpful, if oddly preoccupied by the perpetually baffling jigsaw puzzle in the living room. With little more A heady, inventive, fantastical novel about the nature of memory and the difficulty of confronting trauma An unnamed woman checks into a guesthouse in a mysterious district known only as the Subdivision. The guesthouse’s owners, Clara and the Judge, are welcoming and helpful, if oddly preoccupied by the perpetually baffling jigsaw puzzle in the living room. With little more than a hand-drawn map and vague memories of her troubled past, the narrator ventures out in search of a job, an apartment, and a fresh start in life. Accompanied by an unusually assertive digital assistant named Cylvia, the narrator is drawn deeper into an increasingly strange, surreal, and threatening world, which reveals itself to her through a series of darkly comic encounters reminiscent of Gulliver’s Travels. A lovelorn truck driver . . . a mysterious child . . . a watchful crow. A cryptic birthday party. A baffling physics experiment in a defunct office tower where some calamity once happened. Through it all, the narrator is tempted and manipulated by the bakemono, a shape-shifting demon who poses a distinctly terrifying danger. Harrowing, meticulous, and deranged, Subdivision is a brilliant maze of a novel from the writer Kelly Link has called “a master of the dark arts.” With the narrative intensity and mordant humor familiar to readers of Broken River, J. Robert Lennon continues his exploration of the mysteries of perception and memory.

30 review for Subdivision

  1. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    You think you know what this book is, when you start reading it... and in the end, you might ultimately be correct, but the way Lennon takes us through it is never less than gripping. It's the lessons learned of LOST blended with Jesse Ball's A CURE FOR SUICIDE, and yet it's completely its own thing as well. It is suffused with dread and eerieness. It is funny, mind-bending, sad. And it settles itself on its own terms, refusing to give "what you want" and only, instead, delivering "what you need You think you know what this book is, when you start reading it... and in the end, you might ultimately be correct, but the way Lennon takes us through it is never less than gripping. It's the lessons learned of LOST blended with Jesse Ball's A CURE FOR SUICIDE, and yet it's completely its own thing as well. It is suffused with dread and eerieness. It is funny, mind-bending, sad. And it settles itself on its own terms, refusing to give "what you want" and only, instead, delivering "what you need."

  2. 5 out of 5

    John Decker

    This book didn't make sense until 15 minutes after I finished it. It was still engaging, weird, and thoughtful though. This book didn't make sense until 15 minutes after I finished it. It was still engaging, weird, and thoughtful though.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Loflin

    Happy to report that I loved the book. I love literary nonsense.....love storms as major narrative devices.....love confusing transportation systems. Very pleased.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    This is the first of Lennon's books I've read. It reminded me of Lost and Wandavision, where you're obviously in a foreign territory that's laced with hidden meanings, but it's up to you to decode what those meanings are. I'm looking forward to digging into Lennon's other works. This is the first of Lennon's books I've read. It reminded me of Lost and Wandavision, where you're obviously in a foreign territory that's laced with hidden meanings, but it's up to you to decode what those meanings are. I'm looking forward to digging into Lennon's other works.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I dont know how to rate this. The narrative felt unique. Part of me thinks it should come with trigger warnings, but those would actually be spoilers. Its not graphic, but there are many types of trauma introduced in subtle ways. The truth of the narrator’s past and present is slowly revealed through a complicated mental state. It’s not a happy book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Hunter

    Incredible. So funny and uncanny and poignant.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    3.5. Haunting and riveting, in the manner of, say, “The Lobster.” A woman lands in what is obviously some kind of liminal land, a stopover on her way to “The City.” A kind of dreamlike purgatory that’s fun to explore and figure out along with the unnamed narrator. Not exactly groundbreaking but thankfully neither scary nor boring, and good altogether.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Scott Sharp

    The puzzle of this book isn't as puzzling as i was led to believe. Nor as mind-bending. İt's been done before and better. Another review mentioned Kafka. One also can look to C. S. Lewis or even J.J. Abrams for a better telling of the tale. This is not badly done, by any means; it's just lackluster. The puzzle of this book isn't as puzzling as i was led to believe. Nor as mind-bending. İt's been done before and better. Another review mentioned Kafka. One also can look to C. S. Lewis or even J.J. Abrams for a better telling of the tale. This is not badly done, by any means; it's just lackluster.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    I love books like this. Mystery upon mystery layered with dark humor, a subtle yet undeniable tone of eeriness and dread, wildly eccentric settings and characters; Subdivision has it all. Lennon never gives the reader too much but plenty enough to cling to as our unnamed narrator navigates through an increasingly bizarre series of tasks.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sara Batkie

    This book will be very appealing to a very particular type of reader, probably one who enjoys video games more than I do, which is not at all. Like "Alice in Wonderland" by way of Charlie Kaufman, "Subdivision" doesn't have nearly the emotional heft of the latter's work nor the gonzo imaginativeness of the former, at least for me, to really stick in any memorable or revelatory way. I appreciate Lennon's resistance to providing any sort of resolution or even clear connective tissue on an intellec This book will be very appealing to a very particular type of reader, probably one who enjoys video games more than I do, which is not at all. Like "Alice in Wonderland" by way of Charlie Kaufman, "Subdivision" doesn't have nearly the emotional heft of the latter's work nor the gonzo imaginativeness of the former, at least for me, to really stick in any memorable or revelatory way. I appreciate Lennon's resistance to providing any sort of resolution or even clear connective tissue on an intellectual level, but without anything tethering me to the world he created, I could feel myself forgetting about it even as I was reading it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! My brain is honestly mush right now. I'm positive this is a masterpiece but if you asked me to explain this to you I would have no idea where to start. Or maybe I already did start and just got turned around? What constitutes a beginning? Is there such a thing as a true ending? This is too much I think I need to go to bed. BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! My brain is honestly mush right now. I'm positive this is a masterpiece but if you asked me to explain this to you I would have no idea where to start. Or maybe I already did start and just got turned around? What constitutes a beginning? Is there such a thing as a true ending? This is too much I think I need to go to bed.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Replace the Castle with a suburban neighborhood, and let K hurl non sequitur recriminations at Frieda about cheating on him before he ever came to the Village, and you've pretty much got "Subdivision." The nameless narrator (take that, Franz!) arrives at a guest house run by two women, both named Clara, and embarks on a quest to do . . . something, she never tells the reader, although there are hints that she's recovering from some trauma which she never tells the reader, either. I don't need co Replace the Castle with a suburban neighborhood, and let K hurl non sequitur recriminations at Frieda about cheating on him before he ever came to the Village, and you've pretty much got "Subdivision." The nameless narrator (take that, Franz!) arrives at a guest house run by two women, both named Clara, and embarks on a quest to do . . . something, she never tells the reader, although there are hints that she's recovering from some trauma which she never tells the reader, either. I don't need context for a philosophical novel, just consistency; and I don't need consistency for a psychological novel, just context. But since I'm never sure what type of book Mr. Lennon is writing, I'm doubly dissatisfied. There are hints, here and there, that the narrator has either survived a horrible accident or an abusive relationship, so maybe this is an abstracted novel about recovery; but there are also shape-shifting monsters and quantum tennis balls, so maybe this is an abstracted novel about abstraction. I was only semi into it in either case, but the writer turns a nice phrase every now and then.

  13. 5 out of 5

    3rian 7acob

    I liked this book, even though it was 230 pages of WTF. How do I even begin to explain it? The book itself is a kind of puzzle, with our narrator finding herself in a surreal world populated by strange characters. She has bizarre encounters that range from odd to funny to disturbing, somehow taking it all in stride thanks in part to an Alexa-type device as her advisor and companion. The writing feels carefully crafted and the details were so strange that I found myself getting caught up in trying I liked this book, even though it was 230 pages of WTF. How do I even begin to explain it? The book itself is a kind of puzzle, with our narrator finding herself in a surreal world populated by strange characters. She has bizarre encounters that range from odd to funny to disturbing, somehow taking it all in stride thanks in part to an Alexa-type device as her advisor and companion. The writing feels carefully crafted and the details were so strange that I found myself getting caught up in trying to interpret them as clues. Some puzzle pieces fit neatly together, while others just didn’t connect. There are absurd moments where it felt like “reality” was bleeding through and the answers quickly came into better focus. The challenge was that I as the reader could see them and the narrator couldn’t. That detracted from the momentum a bit, as I ended up feeling like I’d “solved” the book and was just waiting to see if the characters could as well. One of the weirdest things I’ve ever read (in a good way).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    An engrossing but -- at the same time --- not ultimately rewarding puzzle of a book. The female narrator checks into a guest house (run by two elderly women, Clara and the Judge) in the Subdivision and seeks their recommendations in finding a more permanent place to stay as well as a new job. We don't know where she came from, how she got there, or why exactly she left -- and it's not clear she does either. She is guided in her explorations of the Subdivision by an Alexa-esque device that is far An engrossing but -- at the same time --- not ultimately rewarding puzzle of a book. The female narrator checks into a guest house (run by two elderly women, Clara and the Judge) in the Subdivision and seeks their recommendations in finding a more permanent place to stay as well as a new job. We don't know where she came from, how she got there, or why exactly she left -- and it's not clear she does either. She is guided in her explorations of the Subdivision by an Alexa-esque device that is far closer to actual consciousness in its awareness of its surroundings and is good at warning of impending danger (and has a sense of the narrator's progress to goal, the goal itself undefined). As the story goes on, both the reader and the narrator start to get a better understanding of what's going on -- what the Subdivision is, why she's there, and who the people she encounters are. 3.5 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Wolf

    Lennon is masterful, yet again. This book is fascinating and hooks you like a helpless fish from start to finish. Subdivision tells the story of a young woman, staying in a guesthouse, with little memory and an unsettling range of emotions that seem to be matched only by the constant shifting and changing of the landscape around her. Guided by an array of whimsical and sometimes unsettling characters, she makes her way toward redemption, with the Subdivision appearing to be some kind of purgator Lennon is masterful, yet again. This book is fascinating and hooks you like a helpless fish from start to finish. Subdivision tells the story of a young woman, staying in a guesthouse, with little memory and an unsettling range of emotions that seem to be matched only by the constant shifting and changing of the landscape around her. Guided by an array of whimsical and sometimes unsettling characters, she makes her way toward redemption, with the Subdivision appearing to be some kind of purgatory or healing place. I loved all the subtle foreshadowing dripped through, and the overall effect of the book was simply arresting. I can't wait to read the next title I have of Lennon's on my TBR pile.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alix

    3.5 stars Subdivision takes place in a town that defies architecture, logic, and reality. It’s an eerie and surreal place where people and events don’t make sense. This book features an unnamed narrator grappling with her personal problems, an Alexa-like device that is constantly changing form, a puzzle that seems to solve itself and an eccentric cast of characters. At a certain point though you do figure out what’s going on. From there on the story loses a bit of its tension and you’re just wait 3.5 stars Subdivision takes place in a town that defies architecture, logic, and reality. It’s an eerie and surreal place where people and events don’t make sense. This book features an unnamed narrator grappling with her personal problems, an Alexa-like device that is constantly changing form, a puzzle that seems to solve itself and an eccentric cast of characters. At a certain point though you do figure out what’s going on. From there on the story loses a bit of its tension and you’re just waiting to see the narrator reach their destination, so to speak. I would have also liked to further delve into the narrator’s psyche and the problems she is dealing with. Despite these gripes, Subdivision is a weird yet compelling story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    A quirky book. The female protagonist checks into a guest house in the Subdivision run by two women (Clara and the Judge, who seem eerily interchangeable.) She seems adrift, perhaps from the end of a relationship or job, and seeks their recommendations in finding a permanent place to live and a new job. She has purchases Cylvia, an electronic personal assistant, who seems to have deep knowledge about places, people, events of which our main character is unaware. As she wanders around the Subdivi A quirky book. The female protagonist checks into a guest house in the Subdivision run by two women (Clara and the Judge, who seem eerily interchangeable.) She seems adrift, perhaps from the end of a relationship or job, and seeks their recommendations in finding a permanent place to live and a new job. She has purchases Cylvia, an electronic personal assistant, who seems to have deep knowledge about places, people, events of which our main character is unaware. As she wanders around the Subdivision, she meets strange people and phenomenon, and her job is certainly odd too, including her boss and co-worker. I liked it for its strangeness and for the weird puzzle in the guest house.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    My guess is this story will frustrate a lot of people. Imagine reading a book where neither the protagonist nor you know what's going on or who they are yet you have a vague sense that you do know what's happening. This novel is the older cousin of "The Phantom Tollbooth," except now Milo is a woman who has to find her way out of a mystifying maze of hints and unremembered moments, where the threats are darker and the journey is twistier, and Tock is an Alexa-like cylinder. Eerie, compelling, a My guess is this story will frustrate a lot of people. Imagine reading a book where neither the protagonist nor you know what's going on or who they are yet you have a vague sense that you do know what's happening. This novel is the older cousin of "The Phantom Tollbooth," except now Milo is a woman who has to find her way out of a mystifying maze of hints and unremembered moments, where the threats are darker and the journey is twistier, and Tock is an Alexa-like cylinder. Eerie, compelling, a good read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kit Wren

    An insistently bizarre suburbanite Jacob's Ladder, full of humor and an unpredictable plot and a fun antagonist. Raided from japanese folklore, the bakemono, a shapeshifting badger that shows constantly shifting futures, is able to stand in for a great many real world problems and villains. There are parts where the book forgets what it's doing and just sits around futzing with itself, which stick out because of how well it hums along when it's good. No shame in being a good book instead of a pe An insistently bizarre suburbanite Jacob's Ladder, full of humor and an unpredictable plot and a fun antagonist. Raided from japanese folklore, the bakemono, a shapeshifting badger that shows constantly shifting futures, is able to stand in for a great many real world problems and villains. There are parts where the book forgets what it's doing and just sits around futzing with itself, which stick out because of how well it hums along when it's good. No shame in being a good book instead of a perfect book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    Hilarious, weird, well-paced, and some great use of common metaphors. For a book with such an obvious plot, Lennon manages to keep things entertaining and moving deftly as the story unfolds. Never do the metaphors become clichéd, and I found myself continually wanting to know what happens next even when I knew what was going to happen next. A must read, at 230 pages you can easily finish it in a few days.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Lerner

    I love this novel. It is as close to perfection as fiction can be. Imaginative, original, and fresh. And both funny and dark. Kafka himself could have written it, and it would have been among his very best. It is a very personal book for me, as if J. Robert Lennon wrote it for me only, though I'm sure there are legions of other readers who will also love it. I can't rave enough about this book. Thank you, J. Robert Lennon, for writing a book that shines so brightly in a very dark time. I love this novel. It is as close to perfection as fiction can be. Imaginative, original, and fresh. And both funny and dark. Kafka himself could have written it, and it would have been among his very best. It is a very personal book for me, as if J. Robert Lennon wrote it for me only, though I'm sure there are legions of other readers who will also love it. I can't rave enough about this book. Thank you, J. Robert Lennon, for writing a book that shines so brightly in a very dark time.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    I knew very little about this novel going into it, as there weren’t really any reviews yet on Goodreads or Amazon so I went ahead based on just the blurb. I recommend going in similarly blind if you can, and enjoying the gripping and cleverly humorous ride as you work out the confounding puzzle alongside the nameless narrator.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melisa

    I will be bold and say this is Lennon' best book yet. Delightfully strange, like reading someone's drawn-out dream. Just when I thought I'd maybe figured out what was happening, a little more of the mystery was revealed and I'd realize I'd been wrong. For fans of "Twin Peaks" and "Welcome to Nightvale," I wager. I will be bold and say this is Lennon' best book yet. Delightfully strange, like reading someone's drawn-out dream. Just when I thought I'd maybe figured out what was happening, a little more of the mystery was revealed and I'd realize I'd been wrong. For fans of "Twin Peaks" and "Welcome to Nightvale," I wager.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bri Lamb

    This is one of those books where you have to let all the symbolism and metaphors stew in your brain for a while before you truly grasp what the book was about. It's entirely correct to call this book labyrinthine and trippy. But it's also very poignant (and quite unsettling in parts). In short, it really makes you think...and rethink. This is one of those books where you have to let all the symbolism and metaphors stew in your brain for a while before you truly grasp what the book was about. It's entirely correct to call this book labyrinthine and trippy. But it's also very poignant (and quite unsettling in parts). In short, it really makes you think...and rethink.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sanjida

    This book is a puzzle box, or at times like a video game, its logic strange and confounding. Even when you figure out what's happening, it's never less than gripping. I'm not sure everything here fits neatly, but its also probable that I missed a lot. This book is a puzzle box, or at times like a video game, its logic strange and confounding. Even when you figure out what's happening, it's never less than gripping. I'm not sure everything here fits neatly, but its also probable that I missed a lot.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Buff

    Genuinely strange, but interesting. I read every page but am unsure about what--if anything--it meant. There is no discernable plot, but there are interesting characters. Recommended for folks who like experimental lit.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Thea

    I really love this book. It’s a puzzle book, a book where you don’t realize at first what’s happening, and I enjoy that. I appreciate the work that goes into creating such a book. Just relax, and go with the story, and you’ll get it in the end. It’s a sad book, and one that stuck with me long after I finished it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Pazulski

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Suspenseful, thoughtful story with bits of magical realism. A very interesting contemplation on the subject matter — which isn’t revealed until the end (though you can likely guess it much earlier, as I did).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen Ruymann

    From reading reviews, I knew this would be different. Yes, the narrative is somewhat linear, but the directions are open to multiple interpretations. Or perhaps we are not to interpret at all? Not look for levels of meaning? An odd book that I can not recommend to others.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael N

    The best way to describe this novel is Jacob's Ladder meets Lost. It is so chock full of symbolism and innuendos that I'm positive I didn't get them all. It was very intriguing and well written but won't be everyone's cup of tea. I enjoyed it. The best way to describe this novel is Jacob's Ladder meets Lost. It is so chock full of symbolism and innuendos that I'm positive I didn't get them all. It was very intriguing and well written but won't be everyone's cup of tea. I enjoyed it.

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