Acclaim for Orner’s "Love and Shame and Love"

Receiving rave reviews for its distinctive style and emotional power, the second novel by Associate Professor of Creative Writing Peter Orner chronicles four decades in the lives of the Popper family of Chicago.

A photo of the cover of Peter Orner's novel,

"Love and Shame and Love" (Little, Brown and Company, 2011) explores the secret shame, frustration and humiliation of Alexander Popper, his girlfriend, brother, unhappy mother, regretful grandparents and Philip, his lawyer father who throws the four year-old Alexander into Lake Michigan to teach him to swim.

Each of the Poppers’ stories is rendered in swift slices of narrative and dialogue, rather than conventional chapters. Though some segments are only a paragraph in length, each is packed with spare details that illuminate the characters’ feelings and thoughts, as in this passage:

"Philip roams Brooks Brothers like a leopard in his own jungle. This particular hue of blue all his. Today, though, he’s not on the prowl. He’s come for –

What has he come for? "

Orner developed this distinctive style with his acclaimed first novel, "The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo," but he says the time period he covers in his newest novel demanded an economic approach.

"If I tried to cover this ground in any other way, I would have had to write 12 novels," Orner said. "I think that telling a story this way replicates the way we remember things over an extended period of time."

"Love and Shame and Love" has dazzled the literary world from Publishers Weekly to O Magazine. Library Journal reported that "Orner’s short, jittery chapters, some a mere paragraph or two; his incomplete sentences, which completely control the narrative; and his gift for the well-placed single word that can denote full-throttled exasperation are addictively compelling." Publishers Weekly said: "Orner’s sure-footed control of his narrative gradually discloses information that conveys emotional and physical atmosphere."

-- Denize Springer