A journey novel that gets increasingly creepier the further west we go.
The title refers to David Lamb, who’s recently lost his father, and who has had an inadvertent encounter with 11-year-old Tommie, a girl dared by her two friends to bum a cigarette off of David outside a convenience store. Fifty years old, lonely and now detached (in all ways) from his job, David turns the tables on Tommie’s friends by colluding with her in pretending to abduct her for a brief period of time. After he lets her go—and after Tommie finds out that her friends don’t care one way or the other whether she’s been kidnapped—David and Tommie decide to get away for a while. They head west from the dreary Chicago suburb where they live—on the lam (Lamb?) as it were—and try to find a more open, congenial and attractive space in which to let their lives unfold. David emerges as a disturbing character whose intentions are never quite clear. His interest in Tommie is borne out of his loneliness, and while their relationship flirts with the sexual, it never explicitly crosses over—though Nadzam skillfully holds out the possibility that it might. David’s self-professed motivation is to expose Tommie to a wider, more uncommon world than she would ever encounter around Chicago, and he succeeds in doing this. Complicating the relationship between David and Tommie is the rather unrealistic intrusion of David’s girlfriend Linnie, an alluring woman whose attraction to him is bewildering. Toward the end of the novel, David confesses to Tommie that his exposure to some less-than-nice people has made him “behave a little erratically sometimes...”—and it’s clear this is an understatement.
A disturbing and elusive novel about manipulation and desperate friendship.