Book Review: The Fool Of New York City

The Fool Of New York City Book Cover The Fool Of New York City
Michael D. O'Brien
Ignatius Press

Set in present day Manhattan, The Fool of New York City is the tale of two souls who are considered to be "fools" and "idiots" in the eyes of most people they encounter.

One is a literal giant, the other an amnesiac who believes he is the seventeenth-century Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, hundreds of years old, aging more slowly than the rest of the human race. Billy the giant briefly suffered from amnesia years ago, and he understands the anguish of those who have lost their identity. He is an apparently simple person, a failed basketball player with an enormous good heart, who takes Francisco under his wing after they meet through a seeming coincidence. Together they undertake the search to discover Francisco's true past.

The quest leads them on numerous adventures and into the shrouded realm of hidden memories and the mysterious dimensions of the mind. It is a journey into the ironies and the complexities of human character and destiny.


Michael O’Brien, author of the Father Elijah series, returns with a tour de force.

The Fool Of New York City is a breathtaking novel of human frailty and redemption. The small cast of characters who slip through the cracks of the busy city they live in, are complex, profound and inspiring.

Here, in amongst the descriptions of art and the pondering of life in all its intricacies, O’Brien’s evocative and lyrical narrative style truly shine. His deft use of metaphor and descriptive voice were an absolute feast for the senses.

From the opening chapter, reminiscent of Italo Calvino with its second person reflective viewpoint, O’Brien had me hooked. Who was this man who called himself Francisco de Goya? And why was this giant of a man helping him?

I read the book from start to finish in one sitting because I was so invested in the characters and wanted to join them as they delved into their past in order to confront their futures.

O’Brien’s juxtaposition of the city of New York, the streets of Paris and the rural backwater with an old brewery is brilliant. Each setting is described in such detail that each sense is alive, you can smell, see and hear all that the characters experience in an extremely tangible way.

His exploration of the link between objects, or mementos, and their associated memories is masterful. O’Brien also encourages his characters to come to understand their past in order not to have it merely define them, but for them to leave it behind in order to truly live in the present.

But above all, his depiction of redemptive love is the most beautiful element of this story. And in some ways it is the most bittersweet but I don’t want to write in any spoilers here.

To be honest, I enjoyed this novel much more than his apocalyptic series.

And I might even go so far as to say that it’s his best book yet.

You can order it from Ignatius Press here.



Filed Under: Book ReviewsFeaturedJust For MumReviews

About the Author: Emily is a former ACPA award winning editor and journalist turned stay at home mum and blogger. She lives on a farm in regional NSW with her husband and their five children where she spends the time she should be doing housework reading books and writing posts.

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