Lordy. If this is the latest, greatest nostalgic look at Detroit as the city-it-was, then what is this world coming to??
Leithauser may be a well-renowned writing teacher and author, but I believe he has failed in a large way with this ode to his mother and her childhood in Detroit. I think it's safe to say that if you, an author, are going to write something coming from a deeply personal space, you better make sure you're able to step back and view it objectively after that first draft.
There are some truths here (the effect of industrialization, how the war affected those at home, etc.) but in general the overwhelming naivete of the main character is bloody wearing, and very quickly. Oh, the worst thing ever, my mother is a thief, oh, oh! Really? What if your mother were a murderer? Oh, war is hell, it's so hard to go to the hospital and draw portraits of the soldiers, it makes me physically ill sometimes, oh, oh! Really? How do think these mangled soldiers feel themselves?
Gawd. Just stupid, stupid writing.