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Morningside Heights  By  cover art

Morningside Heights

By: Joshua Henkin
Narrated by: Kathe Mazur,Shane Baker
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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice Book • When Ohio-born Pru Steiner arrives in New York in 1976, she follows in a long tradition of young people determined to take the city by storm. But when she falls in love with and marries Spence Robin, her hotshot young Shakespeare professor, her life takes a turn she couldn’t have anticipated.

Thirty years later, something is wrong with Spence. The Great Man can’t concentrate; he falls asleep reading The New York Review of Books. With their daughter, Sarah, away at medical school, Pru must struggle on her own to care for him. One day, feeling especially isolated, Pru meets a man, and the possibility of new romance blooms. Meanwhile, Spence’s estranged son from his first marriage has come back into their lives. Arlo, a wealthy entrepreneur who invests in biotech, may be his father’s last, best hope.

Morningside Heights is a sweeping and compassionate novel about a marriage surviving hardship. It’s about the love between women and men, and children and parents; about the things we give up in the face of adversity; and about how to survive when life turns out differently from what we thought we signed up for.

©2020 Joshua Henkin (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice Book

Best Fiction of the Year - Chicago Tribune

One of Newsweek's Most Highly Anticipated New Books 

38 Novels You Need to Read this Summer - Lit Hub 

One of Good Morning America's 27 Books for June 

The Millions Most Anticipated

Best Book of the Year - Bookmarks Magazine

Top Jewish Pop Cultural Stories - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

One of Alma’s Favorite Books for Summer

 “Henkin has explored the exigencies of marriage and families (especially recombined families) through unflinching yet kind depictions of the ways we live now.... His thoughtful new novel, Morningside Heights, proves no exception.... Notably and satisfyingly, much of Morningside takes place against a New York City that is clearly beloved to its author. Henkin tours a wealth of landmarks and neighborhoods with authority and affection.... Quietly told, the story nonetheless pulses with insistence: Attention must be paid. This subtle urgency opens our own awareness, lens-like, upon the implied human task, larger than any single calamity - that of attending to relentless change, loss, finitude.” (Joan Frank, The Washington Post)

“[Morningside Heights] is generous, wise, and wry enough to avoid sentimentality.... Astonishingly, Henkin transforms what could be a mighty grim work of fiction into a melancholy and tender one enriched by the viewpoints of a constellation of characters.” (Elizabeth Taylor, The National Book Review)

“[Henkin's] story of a brilliant Shakespearean and his wife - once his student - radiates a tenderness for the city that we, his intended readers, can best appreciate - perhaps now most of all, as we ask our city to return to us.... Henkin is a fine writer with a wry fondness for his characters, but like any New Yorker he knows how to keep a safe distance. The specific letting-go that all New Yorkers must master if we don’t wish to be crippled by nostalgia - especially now, if we do hope to see our city’s resurgence - is particularly nuanced when a city neighborhood is also a college town, but Henkin more than meets this challenge.” (Jean Hanff Korelitz, The New York Times Book Review)

Featured Article: 15 Essential Jewish Authors to Hear in Audio


The Jewish diaspora is vast, diverse, and full of stories. In recent years, Jewish authors have published books about everything from love, identity, and history to crime, romance, and what it means to come of age in the modern world. While this list is by no means complete, these 15 Jewish authors have written some of the most fascinating Jewish literature, and they represent a deep catalog of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in a range of genres.

What listeners say about Morningside Heights

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5 glowing stars!!

“Morningside Heights” blew me away as one of the best stories of a contemporary marriage grappling with the devastating damages of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Author Joshua Henkin expertly pens a story following the marriage of Pru and Spence Robin’s courtship and marriage which begins in the 1970’s. Prudence Steiner is pursuing her Ph.D. when she becomes involved with the youngest Professor at Columbia who teaches Shakespeare. He’s a noted genius and charming to boot. After marriage, Spencer achieves two Guggenheims, a Mellon, and a MacArthur, and pens a notable book about Shakespeare that attains the NYTimes best seller list.

At age 57, Spence starts notably to decline. Pru is 51. In her early 50’s she struggles with being a caretaker to her once highly intelligent, physically able spouse. For me, the moving part of this story is the marriage, the impact on the marriage. My heart broke for Pru.

There’s more to the story than dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. The Robin’s marriage has it’s complications, as all do. Spence had a brief marriage to a bohemian woman with whom he has a son, Arlo. Arlo holds grudges based on his mother’s biased information about his father. As so happens in many divorces, one parent poison’s the child’s views which doesn’t help the child or the non-custodian parent. Henkin’s writes the relationship with insider nuance. Pru and Spencer work diligently to bring his son, Arlo, into their family fold.

I absolutely love this story, although heart wrenching and sad. My husband does not have this disease, but while reading this, I felt like I was Pru or at least her best friend. I did identify with the destructive ex-spouse and working with the angry step-child. I was immersed in the story, struggled while they struggled, got frustrated when they were frustrated.

I listened to the audio narrated by Kathe Mazur. I looked forward to my audio time, even when it brought tears to my eyes. When I can get my hands on a hard copy, I will read it. I think I would have adored it more if I read it. This is literature at it’s best, and reading literature, for me, is more fulfilling.

5+ glowing stars!

5 people found this helpful

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Wonderful, moving, touching

For me, this was a powerful emotional experience. I connected with so many aspects of the story. I knew author Joshua Henkin’s father from my time at Penn when I was an undergrad and Professor Henkin taught at Penn Law School. I knew author Henkin’s brother who was the Music director at a day camp my children attended and the choir director at a high school they attended. But most of all I was able to reminisce about Morningside Heights where I lived as a Columbia Graduate Student and where I now live as a Retired professor. Like Spence and Pru in the novel I too had an apartment on Claremont Avenue and snacked in the Chock full of Nuts that no longer can be found on the corner of 116th and Broadway. I agree that Chock full’s coffee was awful (but they served tasty cream cheese on date nut bread sandwiches). But what made this such a special book was the touching and heartbreaking struggles that family members had to grapple with. Coping with the decline in intellectual and physical abilities of a loved one having Alzheimer’s. Dealing with guilt feelings of an overburdened caregiver. Struggling with a strained father-son relationship and that same son contending with a self-centered guilt-tripping mother. This book had everything. It is a powerful and gripping novel. Do yourself a favor and read it or listen to the audiobook.

2 people found this helpful

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Meh.

The author tells a story that, to this reader, is as surprising as the plot of a Hallmark Channel movie. The author TELLS the reader about characters actions, but we don't care about the motives.

The central protagonists talk about their religion, but never utilize the many opportunities in the story to find meaning for their lives. There is more exploration of one character's learning difficulty than why a different character turns his back on his family.

The narrator does a poor job of providing the characters with individual personality. If not for the text ascribing lines to different people you would not know who was speaking. No hint that the narrator is delivering exposition as opposed to dialog.

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Great narration

A wonderful narrator ! Audible should use her more often !
The book itself, well, there are positives: well written prose, an interesting character arc, and heartrending descriptions of the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease ( hard to read because my mother had this, and the descriptions are indeed quite accurate).
Favorite character in the story is the caregiver, Ginny.
The negatives: apart from Ginny, none of the characters really touched me emotionally, in spite of the sad fate of Spence. Several characters were under developed, and seemed unnecessary.
Overall, good book, but a tighter focus on the primary characters would have made it better.

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A sensitive story, poignantly told

Joshua Henkin constructed a small screen slowly evolving medical tragedy on the frame of a love relationship surviving almost unscathed to the end. He gets the medical details, sadly, spot on, and the academia and the Upper West Side elements believable and not overplayed. Pru Steiner, the heroine, is a heroine, an Aysheis Chai’el of the old school regardless of her 21st C UMC trappings.
And compliments to the narrator, K Mazur, for her command of the intent and intonation of the passages in Hebrew.
High marks to all involved in Morningside Heights creation and this production.
Wm R Greenfield MD

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Beautiful story, great narrator.

Equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking. Amazing use of language and great details. 5/5. Read for a Jewish themed book club, would recommend to anyone.

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Well there’s 8 hours and 58 minutes wasted……..

What a whole lot of nothing - like the author just needed words to fill pages.

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“Meh”

Really wanted to like this book — New York, family saga, academic setting … kept hoping it would improve, but found it poorly paced, self-indulgent, shallow and boring. Made it all the way through, and don’t feel that it was a good investment of time. The narrator did a good job.

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Morning side heights.

It kept resetting to first chapter all the time. Not enjoyable. It would go back to chapters I had already read.
Story excellent l. I have I’ll

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A very fine book

Readable and believable. A strong sense of character and and even stronger sense of place. Well worth the time.