In the vein of Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves, Mona Simpson’s My Hollywood, and Magda Szabo’s The Door, Morningside Heights is an epic novel about love and loyalty, privilege and faith

by Joshua Henkin
Pantheon, March 2020

Morningside Heights tells the story of Pru Steiner, an Orthodox Jew raised in Ohio, who, in 1975, falls in love with Spence Robin, MacArthur winner and the youngest art historian ever to receive tenure at Columbia. Her career derailed by an early marriage to a powerful and acclaimed man, Pru settles into an ambivalent domesticity, raising their daughter Sarah. Spence, meanwhile, has been keeping a secret: an earlier marriage, which produced a son, Arlo, with whom he’s no longer in touch. Thirty years later, something is wrong with Spence. The great art historian can’t focus. Still in his fifties, he becomes taciturn and forgetful. With their daughter in medical school in California, Pru must face his illness on her own. Arlo, now a wealthy venture capitalist with access to a promising experimental drug, has gotten back in touch. Pru, meanwhile, is struggling for money. She can’t afford Ginny, the domestic aide who takes care of Spence. And she has met a man at a caregiver’s class and the threat of romance looms. Spanning time zones and decades, Morningside Heights tells the story of a marriage enduring through adversity, and how ties of blood, long frayed, persist in the face of misfortune.

Joshua Henkin is the author of the novels Swimming Across the Hudson, a Los Angeles Times Notable Book; Matrimony, a New York Times Notable Book; and The World Without You, which was named an Editors’ Choice Book by The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune and was the winner of the 2012 Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish American Fiction and a finalist for the 2012 National Jewish Book Award. He directs and teaches in the MFA program in Fiction Writing at Brooklyn College.

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