In 1947 Homer and Langley Collyer were found dead and decaying in their 5th Avenue mansion that was packed with newspapers, trash, pianos and booby-traps. From this bizarre true story, E. L. Doctorow crafted a mesmerizing novel of two boys from a very privileged but neglectful childhood who formed a profound and enviable bond of friendship, loyalty and dedication to each other. Homer is a promising pianist who starts to gradually go blind as a teen and as a consequence, his other senses become more acute. His brother, Langley, goes off to fight in WWI and is badly damaged (physically and emotionally) in a mustard gas attack. Their parents both fall to Spanish Flu and Homer is left for a while with just the servants. Langley returns from Europe with a nasty cough and penchant for hoarding which soon takes over their lives.
Homer and Langley is so much more than a story of recluses and compulsive hoarding. The meat of the novel comes from the exquisitely human interactions between the brothers, their servants, and the other people who pass briefly through their lives. E. L. Doctorow's words are so carefully chosen that the reader feels what these men feel, from the loneliness, isolation and paranoia to the intense joy they experience from their music and their closeness with each other.