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The Garden of Lost and Found
Cover of The Garden of Lost and Found
The Garden of Lost and Found
by Dale Peck

A man inherits a valuable piece of Manhattan real estate, leading to unexpected consequences, in this "strange and wonderful novel" (Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland).

James Ramsay is twenty-one years old and he has just inherited a building in New York City. After the death of his estranged mother, he finds that he is now the owner of No. 1 Dutch Street—a five-story brownstone near the World Trade Center.

As James takes up residence there, trying to figure out his next move, he gets to know the only other tenant: an elderly black woman named Nellydean. Under a mounting tide of taxes, James finds himself faced with a stark choice: He can sell the building for a small fortune—which will mean not only turning Nellydean out of the only home she's known for more than forty years, but also forfeiting his only remaining connection to his mother. Then Nellydean's niece shows up, looking for a place for herself and her unborn child—and an older man becomes smitten with James, even as James's health begins to fail.

Prize-winning author Dale Peck's fiction has been called "terrific" by Jonathan Safran Foer, and Michael Cunningham described his voice as "like an angel chewing on broken glass." In The Garden of Lost and Found, he maps a tangled network of sexual, familial, and financial complications, over which hangs the specter of 9/11, and "tells the quintessential New York story with his delicious style and piercing ability to move" (Martha McPhee, author of Gorgeous Lies).

A man inherits a valuable piece of Manhattan real estate, leading to unexpected consequences, in this "strange and wonderful novel" (Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland).

James Ramsay is twenty-one years old and he has just inherited a building in New York City. After the death of his estranged mother, he finds that he is now the owner of No. 1 Dutch Street—a five-story brownstone near the World Trade Center.

As James takes up residence there, trying to figure out his next move, he gets to know the only other tenant: an elderly black woman named Nellydean. Under a mounting tide of taxes, James finds himself faced with a stark choice: He can sell the building for a small fortune—which will mean not only turning Nellydean out of the only home she's known for more than forty years, but also forfeiting his only remaining connection to his mother. Then Nellydean's niece shows up, looking for a place for herself and her unborn child—and an older man becomes smitten with James, even as James's health begins to fail.

Prize-winning author Dale Peck's fiction has been called "terrific" by Jonathan Safran Foer, and Michael Cunningham described his voice as "like an angel chewing on broken glass." In The Garden of Lost and Found, he maps a tangled network of sexual, familial, and financial complications, over which hangs the specter of 9/11, and "tells the quintessential New York story with his delicious style and piercing ability to move" (Martha McPhee, author of Gorgeous Lies).

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    Story ProblemsThe man with the van was called Kevin From Heaven, and he charged extra for driving all the way up to Harlem. He was stocky and hirsute, a ruff of fine gray hair sticking out of his T-shirt andcowling his bald head. He said he lived in Jersey himself, yup, heaven was just the other side of the Hudson River, he couldn't see how anyone besides day traders and dot-commers could afford to live in the city anymore--which showed, more than anything else, how out of touch with New York he really was. The back of his van, where Claudia and I rode, was dry and hot and empty save for several blankets and nested boxes and a few dented beer cans, and whenever the van went over a bump the cans would bounce and rattle and one or the other of us would jump a little, nervously, then try to laugh it off. There were a lot of bumps between Dutch Street and 137th.
    As soon as we entered her father's house Claudia set off down the hall, but Kevin From Heaven lingered in the foyer doorway. "Shee-it," he drawled theatrically, and a long low wolf whistle gamboled down the hall like a lapdog chasing its mistress. But Kevin From Heaven surprised me with what came out of his mouth next:
    "Now this is old New York."
    At any other time, in any other place, Kevin From Heaven would have been whistling at the jiggle of Claudia's ass beneath the clinging silver fabric of her dress, but faced with a thirtyfoot corridor off which opened "two, three, four, five, six doors" (Kevin From Heaven ticked them off on his fingers, although on the last digit he just grabbed his crotch), square footage beat round flesh hands down. The hallway's baseboard was so scuffed it was practically black and one of the panels in the fanlight between the living and dining rooms was filled with plywood and a leak had puffed out the ceiling in Claudia's bedroom so that it resembled an oppressively low thundercloud, but nevertheless this was the real deal. This was old New York.
    I pretended to help for a few minutes, but Claudia's method was so haphazard there wasn't much I could do. She ran from bedroom to closet to bathroom then back to the bedroom, high heels thumping like hammerblows in her haste to beat her father back from his bridge game. Even so, her efforts couldn't have been more inefficient. She carried one thing at a time to eleven boxes lined up in the hallway, and with each object there was a moment of contemplation as she decided which box to put it in, what belonged with what--as if, like a hostess seating a dinner party, she didn't want to place two guests together who might not get along.
    When, every once in a while, she actually filled a box, Kevin From Heaven or I would carry it down to the van, but this happened so irregularly that soon I ceded the task to him and just wandered from one seventeenth-story window to the next. You could see all the way down to the World Trade Center from the south exposure, all the way across to the Jersey Palisades from the west, while from the east the planes taking off from La Guardia aimed straight for the ten-foot wide oriel in the living room before arcing north or south or simply higher into the sky. The chair from which Claudia's father took in one or another of these views had a shot cushion augmented with a rump-flat stack of pillows, and beside the chair a copper washtub, green as moss, held a mixed stack of New York Posts and Amsterdam Newses. In the dining room a brownish bit of cutwork sat in the center of a warped round table, in the foyer a Thonet coat tree had been pushed into a corner, as naked and lonely as a hanging skeleton in an anatomy lab. And I mean, sure, it was...

About the Author-
  • Dale Peck is the author of twelve books in a variety of genres, including Martin and John, Hatchet Jobs, and Sprout. His fiction and criticism have earned him two O. Henry Awards, a Pushcart Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. He lives in New York City, where he teaches in the New School's Graduate Writing Program.

Reviews-
  • EDGE Media "A peculiar, hallucinatory novel... violently emotional, frequently unhinged, always interesting."
  • Lambda Literary Foundation "A strange and wonderful novel [by] a strange and wonderful novelist." --Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland "[Peck] tells the quintessential New York story with his delicious style and piercing ability to move." --Martha McPhee, author of Gorgeous Lies "[Peck is a] brilliant writer, and this perplexing, beguiling, pre-and-post 9/11 Manhattan-set fable could have come from no one else." --Booklist "Peck delivers a novel that explores family, sexuality, AIDS, and the resiliency of the city, and he does it without kowtowing to the populist sentiment that a character ought to be likable: this one certainly isn't . . . In typical fashion, Peck spares no punches."
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