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"Tell your story walking",
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This review is from: Motherless Brooklyn (Paperback)
A group of teenagers from the local Brooklyn Orphanage find themselves recruited by a local man, Frank Minna, for various jobs to do with his taxi work and moving house business, though they soon find out some of the work they are doing has an edge of illegality. The story of their coming of age, if such it can be termed, is told by Lionel Essrog, who has Tourette's Syndrome and is casually nicknamed Freak and sometimes worse. Tourette's Syndrome is an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder with onset in childhood, characterised by multiple physical (motor) tics and at least one vocal tic. Most cases are mild and the severity of tics decreases as the sufferer ages. Children between ages of 5 to 18 may have symptoms such as transient and chronic eye-blinking, coughing, throat clearing, sniffing and facial movements. Extreme Tourette's in adulthood is a rarity and does not adversely affect intelligence or life expectancy.
The condition has not abated in Lionel unfortunately, and he is subject to verbal tics, counting and the almost uncontrollable urge to touch people, mostly around the collar (he relentlessly rights any carelessness or untidiness around this region. Understandably perhaps, this does not endear him to casual acquaintances, such as policemen, for instance. But it is not something he can always control, as he says, "For me counting and touching things and repeating words are all the same activity. Tourette's is just one big lifetime of tag really..."
The book opens with Lionel and Gilbert (another of the Minna man gang) following their boss by means of a secret microphone linked to an Ear in their car. Only it doesn't look good for Frank, who has been seen by Lionel getting into a car with a giant of a man.
This book is both funny and touching as Lionel and his peers come to grips with a most unfortunate event in their lives as Minna men. Lionel is the most insistent that they are kind-of detectives, not just taxi or house-moving drivers. The unravelling of the "wheels within wheels" - one of several catchphrases of Frank Minna's, is what the redoubtable Lionel is determined to do. The characters are all on the edge of legality, yet Lionel retains some aspects of his innocence as the plot begins to unravel. It is an excellent read that leaves you both sad and oddly cheered that Lionel will go on in some capacity, discovering those moments when he is truly himself.