Booklist review of When You Come Home

The administrations and institutions that conceive of and execute armed conflicts are notoriously reluctant to acknowledge, much less take responsibility for, any debilitating effects such wars may have on the people charged with carrying them out. In 1991, troops sent to Iraq for the first Gulf War returned home with a litany of physical, neurological, and psychological symptoms that collectively became known as Gulf War syndrome, a subject seldom dealt with in works of fiction. Eisenberg bravely sheds light on the resultant devastation suffered by one small group of friends and their families: marine reservist Tony and his childhood sweetheart Lily; their best friends, career soldier Homer and his wife, Nancy; and their parents, whose generation fought in Vietnam. In a story that is, sadly, as pertinent as it is ageless, Eisenberg poignantly demonstrates that casualties of war occur both on and off the battlefield and ironically illustrates the vivid consequences when those in charge of veterans’ postwar care fail to meaningfully “support our troops.”

—Carol Haggas

Reviews of The War at Home

“Nora Eisenberg’s engaging debut novel takes place in the years after the heroine’s father has returned from World War II only to ravage his own family. Eisenberg’s “memoir-novel” recounts the savagery that family members can and do dole out to one another… With her spiky, keening prose, Eisenberg depicts the world from a child’s point of view, deftly mixing nostalgia and knock-kneed vulnerability.”
The Washington Post Book World

“Nora Eisenberg paints an intriguing portrait of a red-diaper childhood in a bygone middle-class Bronx…establishing through the wide-eyed point of view of 6- year-old Lucy Lehman an unconventional, darker side of post-World War II America.”
The Boston Globe

“Ralph and Tippy Lehman, the parents in this touching autobiographical first novel of a Bronx childhood, give new meaning to the word eccentric as they careen from one wild scenario to another. Ralph is the World War II-decorated father whose “battle fatigue” so clouds his thinking that he sometimes mistakes his wife and children for the enemy. In addition to the war in his mind, the war between Ralph and Tippy flares up periodically and they inflict wounds on each other and on the kids, Lucy and Nicky. No ordinary 1950’s mother, Tippy is a temperamental artist who breathes drama and culture like oxygen and descends into pills and madness in the latter half of the book. Lucy and Nicky mostly raise themselves, weathering storms, neglect and abuse at home and, in many cases, caring for their parents. Their self-reliance and fearlessness are remarkable. To smooth out the narrative’s rough edges, Eisenberg (English, CUNY) weaves in patches of tranquility, moments of hope, and comic relief. This poignant and unforgettable first novel deserves the widest possible audience.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

“Billed as a “memoir-novel,” this book by Bronx native Eisenberg is a tenderly written yet harrowing portrayal of a family’s disintegration in the years after World War II. Lucy Lehman is just a child when her father returns from the war. According to Lucy’s mother, Tippy, he was once a sweet young man, but now he is angry and violent, his screaming rages most frequently directed at Lucy’s rebellious older brother, Nick, and Tippy, a children’s dance instructor (her real-life image graces the book’s cover). When Lucy is 10, whatever tacit agreement the family had abruptly ends, and her father leaves the house and shacks up with a mistress named Liberty in the first of several dalliances. This development throws Tippy into a downward spiral of prescription drug abuse and bizarre, erratic behavior that forces Lucy and 13-year-old Nick to fend for themselves. To escape the “chaos of home,” they rely on their self-sufficiency as volunteer gardeners at a park and botanical garden and then at the family’s Camp Pohogo, where a parental reunion occurs. The reunion, however, like most of Eisenberg’s book, remains joyful only for a fleeting moment. By Lucy’s teen years, Tippy’s over-the-top rampages (à la Mommie Dearest) force brother and sister to run away, and though Nick revels in his independence, Lucy eventually returns and decides to face womanhood back in the hopeless reality of life with Mom in the Bronx. There are no blue skies in Eisenberg’s barely fictionalized and often excessively grim account, and this would prove daunting if her prose weren’t so graceful. A powerfully somber meditation on the indelible mark of familial strife on children, this impressive first novel is infused with genuine compassion and sorrow.”
Publishers Weekly

“No punches are pulled in this gritty “memoir novel” by Eisenberg, who draws on her own Bronx upbringing to depict a nightmare. Eisenberg’s tale is so poignant that it’s…Painful to read, yet hard to put down; a family drama akin to those of Eugene O’Neill.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Lucy Lehman wins our hearts. She is resilient, she is smart, she is loving. No ordinary coming-of-age story…[this] is, in fact, a harrowing story, albeit one told with humor and compassion. One that, despite the pain that continuously breaks through like grass on an abandoned stretch of cement, ends triumphantly.”
The St Petersburg Times

“The War at Home is one of those accidental gifts for which one feels grateful, a powerful novel, superbly crafted.”
Forward, America’s Jewish Newspaper

Reviews of Just The Way You Want Me

“In this bruising, funny and restless novel, Eisenberg examines the disfiguring legacies of Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist inquisition and supplies a probing meditation on the disorderly world of a far-from-ordinary family, patiently weighing the question of who can be held ultimately to account for their tribulations.”
The Washington Post

“In her second novel, Eisenberg takes readers back to post-World War II America, when McCarthyism was in full bloom [and presents] an achingly realistic portrait of 1950s America that strongly echoes today’s political climate. Eisenberg presents fully realized characters in prose endowed with beauty, grace, and compassion.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Some of Eisenberg’s liveliest writing… Familiar with the foibles and self-deceptions of leftist circles, she portrays this milieu with a mixture of satire and affection. Eisenberg has a sharp eye for the ways in which people manage to deceive themselves [and] deftly portrays the drawbacks of a man so intent on serving his cause and demonstrating his principles that he sacrifices the needs of his wife and children.”
The Los Angeles Times

”Patriotism is a powerful motivator. Love of country can bind political and cultural factions into one nation but also can be wielded to punish those who don’t conform to majority views. Idealism also has two sides. True believers will make great sacrifices for their cause, but if their ideological purity devolves into single-minded stubbornness, friends and family may be gravely hurt. In her timely new novel, “Just the Way You Want Me,” Nora Eisenberg reminds us once again that wars of ideology incur collateral damage, and that just as in shooting wars, it’s often innocent women and children who are caught in the line of fire.”
—The Hartford Courant

“Eisenberg weaves two distinct plot lines–the strength of familial ties and the insidious effects of McCarthyism–into her vibrant and edifying second novel [an] often humorous odyssey enlivened by the odd assortment of family and friends her protagonist meets along the way.”

“Eisenberg follows a woman as she searches for her father—presumed dead for 20 years…The mystery here never overwhelms the charm of Betsy’s story, a comfortable balance between seriousness and sweet-natured humor.”
Kirkus Reviews