Inside a 5th Avenue mansion filled with early, loving childhood memories, Homer (soon to become blind) and brother, Langley, suddenly lose both their parents to the 1918 flu. Their world shrinks and they bar the doors. Exposed to mustard gas during the war, Langley in a somewhat altered state, cares for his brother but also extravagantly collects the detritus of the city that they have shut out. This is a fascinating story about eccentricity, aloofness, and a lifetime of collecting.
“A sweeping masterpiece about the infamous New York hermits, the Collyer brothers…. Occasionally, outsiders wander through the house, exposing it as a living museum of artifacts, Americana, obscurity and simmering madness. Doctorow’s achievement is in not undermining the dignity of two brothers who share a lush landscape built on imagination and incapacities. It’s a feat of distillation, vision and sympathy.” «–Publishers Weekly