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Life Among Giants: A Novel Hardcover – November 13, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616200766
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616200763
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: I hereby nominate Lizard the humongous football player and Sylphide the mysterious ballerina as two of my favorite characters of 2012. Rarely have such elite and outsize personalities felt so true on the page--a joy to be with, worth rooting for. We meet Lizard at age 17, when his parents are murdered, setting up his decades-long search for the truth behind his father's shady business dealings and his family's weblike relationship with the couple in the mansion next door: Sylphide, the world's greatest dancer, and her rock star husband. Like early John Irving, Roorbach has crafted a story that's rollicking and sexy but not shallow or slight. Seven-foot Lizard and petite Sylphide, both giants in their own way, are a pair to behold. Part Gatsby, part Garp, Life Among Giants is an urgent tale of greed, love, and revenge. --Neal Thompson

From Booklist

David “Lizard” Hochmeyer is enormous, nearly seven feet tall, and so is the labyrinth of tragedy and revenge he navigates in Roorbach’s novel. The high-school football star is headed to Princeton and then an NFL career when his parents are murdered. Both his and his sister’s lives are irreparably shaken and become significantly intertwined with the world-famous ballerina who lives nearby. Roorbach has created a memorable narrator who possesses the disarming frankness of Holden Caulfield and whose rapid-fire delivery and cutting characterizations expertly shift between memories and the present moment. Lizard keeps this part-mystery, part-coming-of-age-tale humming, as the cavalcade of revelations rolls by, prompting the reader to echo Lizard’s signature, “Whoa!” This is one of those novels you read because you care about what happens to the people and the connections between them as those connections grow, fray, and snap. By turns surreal and gritty, the book is written with the same muscular grace possessed by the dancers and athletes who are its main charaters. --Bridget Thoreson

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia on November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best mysteries I've read all year. Roorbach kept me guessing throughout. More importantly he kept me wondering not just who killed but why. The book opens with Lizard's parents being killed almost at his feet. The story is told through Lizard's (David) eyes from the murders when he's 17 through middle age as he and his sister Kate attempt to make sense of their tragedy and to live through and past it. They have many adventures. They're both athletes. Lizard plays pro football for the Dolphins. Kate is a top seeded tennis player. They're lives are enmeshed some celebrities whose lives infest theirs with both good and bad results.

Roorbach's characterizations are deadly on target as is his depiction of the 1970's. Strangely, after the murders, time becomes almost irrelevant, for Lizard and Kate the murders stay as fresh as they were when they first happened. The horror doesn't subside. It's hard to believe that 17 year old Lizard is as mature as he seems even given that the murders cause him to grow up quickly. Also much of the story is told from his adult perspective but it's still hard to believe someone so young could be so wise. He has his blind spots though. His hormones and heart dictate many of his decisions much to the consternation of his older sister Kate though she doesn't have much right to complain since she's caught in the same vortice. At 17 and 19 their reactions are a bit caught in amber, so is their struggle to get on with their lives. There are so many unanswered questions. The court decisions don't make sense. The pain of their lose keeps them planted in 1970. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder wasn't recognized and there were few treatments at that time.

I've said this is a mystery but that's not strictly true.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David, known as Lizard is the young giant whom we meet in high school. He lives with his father, the not so successful smooth talker, Nicholas; his sister Kate, his father's favorite and a tennis star; and his mother, a somewhat remote parent who encourages his football career. Kate is the nanny to disabled Linsey who lives across the pond in the grand home High Side. Linsey is the son of legendary rocker Dabney and the great ballerina Sylphide.
Under the surface is Kate's relationship with Dabney, his father's frantic failing, Lizard's deep lust for Sylphide, and the many mysteries of High Side.
This book moves back and forth over decades, revealing secrets through the years. Early on, Lizard's parents are killed on their way to a witness protection home and in front of Lizard and his sister. Dabney is already dead in a horrific but questionable car accident. The rest of the book carries the murder mystery sub plot.
But for me the important plot is the growth of Lizard as he comes to love the people around him. After his football career, he becomes a restauranteer meeting the wonderful Etienne and his love Ruangela, a masculine cross dresser. He loves and lusts for Sylphide who appears episodically through his life. He grows into the giant body of his birth.
Secondary character is the wonderful High Side, possibly the most fabulously imagined wonderland of literature. It has every luxury I never imagined and seems to grow and contract as needed. The best part is the fantasy small scale suite in the pool house, a nook of waterfall showers and snug nests. The restaurants take on another character and entice us with wonderful food, always fully realized.
The one flaw for me was the actual murder mystery which dragged through the book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Booklover on December 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I would compare this book to FREEDOM by Franzen. Great writing, good mystery and interesting characters. On top of it he is a local Chicago writer. Good book club pick.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Ross on December 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a mystery 'page turner', I would definitely NOT recommend this book. If, however, you are looking for a really really well written book that happens to have a good mystery in the background, then you should purchase this book immediately. In my mind, the writing (and to a degree the book itself) is very reminiscent of early John Irving -- World According to Garp/Hotel New Hampshire. If you enjoyed either of those books, you should absolutely read this one (and if you enjoyed this one and don't know John Irving, you should go check him out now).

Again not a 'page turner' in the classic sense of the Grisham world, but a page turner in a beautiful prose sense of the world. I certainly didn't want to put it down...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. August VINE VOICE on December 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Writing with a mixture of John Irving and a touch of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Roorbach places his strong middle class characters in problems that no amount of money can solve. The author creates characters poles apart; the main character is David "Lizard" Hockmeyer, who is 6 feet 8 inches tall, but he is dwarfed by a fiendish crime that has impacted his life. David sees his parents murderered, almost mob style, right in front of him and his own life is spared because the killers had emptied their bullets. David is no coward and confronts the killers and his father's shady dealings. Rather than isolate himself, 18 year old David becomes a back up quarterback for the Miami Dolphins and has a penchant for opening up restaurants.

Roobach's chacters are all but secondary. His beloved sister, Katie, is bi-polar (what we would term it today) and is married to man who worships her despite all odds. And there are many odds; she flits from activitiy to activity in her manic states and has no compunction of almost alluring her own brother.

Across the pond from the Hockmeyer's abode, is the High Side, a real mansion with rooms, secret rooms and a staff. Living there is Sylphide, a sprite, a world-class ballerina and the widow of an international rock star. High Side is reminiscent of Gatsby. Lizard's relationship with Sylphide is odd but drenched in full adolescent longings. He also has Emily Bright, a sexual mix of Korean and black, who attracts David in his prime.

The story is a 40 year arc of David's grief and his coming of age. Roorbach careens us back and forth from the present to the past with alacrity, actually he snakes from timeframe to timeframe to excess. I began to wonder if any narrator is reliable.
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