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Buffalo Lockjaw Paperback – March 31, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Buffalo, N.Y., is as much a character as any of the slackers populating Ames's darkly humorous debut about a young man with a copy of Assisted Suicide for Dummies in his car and a 56-year-old mother with Alzheimer's who he believes wants to die. Ames's depiction of James's bedside concern for his mother straddles the line between caustically comic and wrenchingly emotional, while the wry riffs on family tension and the sad state of Buffalo that appear throughout this fine first novel don't undercut the serious consideration of murder or mercy for terminal patients.
(Apr.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

I’m excited about this novel for a few reasons. One, Ames opens with a great quote from Flannery O’Connor’s under-appreciated novel Wise Blood: “Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.” Two, it’s set in Buffalo, New York, which is full of frustrated artists, frustrated young people, and thousands of psychiatric patients who were given one-way bus tickets when they were released from New York City mental hospitals in the early eighties (Buffalo was the last stop). Three, the premise of a son trying to decide whether to help his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother commit suicide is provocative and memorable. – The New Yorker
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1 Original edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401309801
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401309800
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #880,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Mccarthy on June 25, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
Buffalo Lockjaw is a brilliantly written story about a son who feels responsible for his mother's current, debilitated state. After talking Ellen out of suicide when she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease, James Fitzroy sets out on a journey back to his hometown of Buffalo to, for once in his life, do something of meaning, to save his mother from her suffering and follow through with her own wishes. Buffalo is the perfect backdrop for the story, not only because this is where the author grew up, but because,like the main character's mother, Buffalo is a city that is full of life and beauty, but is, in many ways, suffering. In a very clever way, the author teaches us much about Buffalo through several character sketches sprinkled throughout the first half of the novel, characters from the city of Buffalo that the main character, James, interviewed in his earlier days while conducting an ethnographical study. For some reason (unknown to himself at the time), James is listening to a tape of these interviews when he drives into Buffalo, and through his continued listening of it, the reader begins to learn about the city of Buffalo and comes to understand it as its own rich character in the story.

Throughout the course of the story, James finds that his past seems to collide with his present as he works through his decision to help his mother. We're introduced to his family and see the pain and heartache that surrounds watching a loved one suffer from advanced Alzheimer's as she becomes more debilitated and loses her sense of self. We also see the guilt that consumes James as he watches his mom suffer. He feels responsible for her current state, because, after all, he was the one who talked her out of suicide.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm not convinced The City of Buffalo is unlike any other Great Lakes industrial city. As depicted in Greg Ames debut novel, BUFFALO LOCKJAW, the city is a silent snow blinded killer of motivation buried under an avalanche of lake effect storms immobilizing its citizens to content themselves with drinking in lowly bars, drugging it up at backyard winter barbecues, and holding dear to a post-pubescent childhood far into their 20s. Having lived in and around Buffalo all my life, the depiction is frighteningly accurate. Could my beloved city possibly be unique? Are things really different in Cleveland, Ohio?

Part of the fun of reading Buffalo Lockjaw is the legion of references to the city peppering nearly every page of the novel. I'm surprised and maybe a little embarassed to lay immodest claim to having patronized every drinking establishment mentioned in the book, and there are several, (what, no 'Mohawk Place'?). It's true this is the city you might find local eccentrics walking naked through a blizzard. And I was there, as cited here, during a truly harrowing Buffalo blizzard, when the late mayor Jimmy Griffin told the city to kick back in front of the TV, open up a six-pack, and wait out the storm. The national media's response was, 'only in Buffalo'. I nostalgically recognize cruising through the city-proud commercial Elmwood district late on a winter night, looking through a fogged and icy car window for a bar, a friend, or any action, as snow numbed pedestrians blindly step in front of the car as if attempting a half-hearted suicide. And when The Buffalo Bills lost the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive time, the city cried like Niagara Falls.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book immensely and was sad when it was finished. The description of James' mother and the facility where she lived was spot on as I go through the steps of dementia with my own mother. Despite the sadness of dementia, I really loved how the book was able to still show that life continues for all of the people deemed the caretakers of the mother. The book very funnily provides the "beauty" that James keeps searching for throughout his visits with his Mom. I'm looking forward to the author's next book.
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The jacket copy for BUFFALO LOCKJAW states, "James Fitzroy isn't doing so well." I disagree. I think James is doing damn well under the circumstances. His mother is slowly dying from Alzheimers, and at far too young an age. He's still trying to connect with his emotionally distant father, the absolute personification of that title syndrome. Because Rodney Fitzroy isn't maintaining just that proverbial stiff upper lip in the face of his wife's long slow dying, he's got the lockjaw thing down too.

Protagonist James, at 28 a part of that so-called 'slacker' generation, is perhaps a bit slow to mature like so many of his contemporaries, but at least he did manage to get out of Buffalo (out of the shadow of his over-achieving sister) and find a job. Writing verses and captions in the "Laffs" department of a greeting card company may not be the best of careers. Hell, maybe it's not a career at all, but at least he has a steady job, which is more than most of his toked-up beer-swilling Buffalo buddies can say.

But at the very heart of BUFFALO LOCKJAW is the strong love that James feels for his dying mother, who was a career nurse who loved and believed in her work. It is breaking James's heart to watch her recede into the emptiness of Alzheimers, and in his desperation and love, he studies the possibility of some kind of intervention, reading about assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The odd thing about this book is that despite such a serious and unfunny subject, Ames manages to inject a lot of humor into his first-person narrative. It is, I think, the mark of a very talented writer who can make his reader belly laugh and then nearly weep within the space of a page or two. Greg Ames is that kind of a talent, and he manages to do this repeatedly.
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