Lamb is a tale told from the depths of its title character's self-centered loneliness. In his 54 years, David Lamb has wanted for little and suffered less. So when his marriage crumbles and his father dies, Lamb copes by disappearing from Chicago to his cabin out west. Instead of taking the time for some much-needed soul-searching, however, Lamb takes along Tommie, an unexceptional 11-year-old girl he meets in a Lombard parking lot.

But Lamb is no titillating crime drama. With the reflexive self-deception born of unexamined privilege, Lamb picks up Tommie because he needs to believe that he can, somehow, save her--that he can waltz into the life of a girl who will amount to nothing and give her the benefit of a Rocky Mountain vacation, a yellow sweater, a slice of a world she's never seen. What Lamb doesn't realize, however, is that he cannot give Tommie the honest and intimate friendship she needs without first facing the demons--privileged as they are--that lurk in his own past.

Lamb is difficult to sympathize with, which can make the book dislikable at times, but Nadzam's genius is in creating a character who is as compelling as he is tiresome. Lamb has sparse settings and very little plot, but these don't feel like losses so much as discretion. Everything that matters happens between Lamb and Tommie, and in forging this relationship, Nadzam has done well indeed. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at Intractable Bibliophilia

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