The brilliant new novel from the Orange Prize-winning author of We Need to Talk About Kevin centres on three generations of the Mandible family as a fiscal crisis hits a near-future America.
It is 2029. The Mandibles have been counting on a sizable fortune filtering down when their 97-year-old patriarch dies. Yet America's soaring national debt has grown so enormous that it can never be repaid. Under siege from an upstart international currency, the dollar is in meltdown. A bloodless world war will wipe out the savings of millions of American families. Their inheritance turned to ash, each family member must contend with disappointment but also - as the effects of the downturn start to hit - the challenge of sheer survival.
Recently affluent Avery is petulant that she can't buy olive oil while her sister, Florence, is forced to absorb strays into her increasingly cramped household. As their father, Carter, fumes at having to care for his demented stepmother now that a nursing home is too expensive, his sister, Nollie, an expat author, returns from abroad at 73 to a country that's unrecognisable. Perhaps only Florence's oddball teenage son, Willing, an economics autodidact, can save this formerly august American family from the streets.
This is not science fiction. This is a frightening, fascinating, scabrously funny glimpse into the decline that may await the United States all too soon, from the pen of perhaps the most consistently perceptive and topical author of our times.
©2016 Lionel Shriver (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
Praise for Lionel Shriver: "Shriver proves she is not afraid of anything...." (Observer)
"It's a wonder that subject matter on the surface so bleak can be transformed into something so uplifting." (Daily Telegraph)
"You can rely on Lionel Shriver to upend your expectations." (Daily Express)
"Required reading for all mortals." (Daily Mail)
"...witty, observant and beautifully controlled." (Literary Review)
It is frustrating when a dystopian novel uses the present day as the past, and then skips forward 15 years to a new future but with no bridge of events on the way. The book is murky and confused.
I hate to give bad reviews - and hate to abandon a book, but halfway through chapter 2 I just can't face the thought of listening any more. The manner in which we are being introduced to the characters is so drearily done that no-one's name or position in the family clan properly registers - and nor do the descriptions of the changes in technology and way of life in this near future world. Perhaps everything gathers momentum as the story progresses but I just don't have the commitment to give it a go. For me it was a great idea wasted.
If, like me, you came to this book because you're a huge fan of We Need to Talk About Kevin, expect your expectations to be confounded. But while the subject matter is completely different, the brilliant observation and spine-tingling narrative tension mean you will not be disappointed. As you would expect from Lionel Shriver, the characters are richly drawn and the slow-building suspense is compelling, but what I really love about this book is the way it takes real issues of the modern world - inherited riches, family politics and economic meltdown - and tweaks them to convincingly terrifying visions of the near future. Our present day is the book's immediate past, marked by schools named after Barack Obama and Ed Balls' cameo as UK prime minister, among others. It's a brilliant listen, but also a warning.
I have loved Shriver's other books so much, the gripping original story telling and truthful painful insights, but I really thought this was a bit obvious. The story is ok, but I didn't really care that much about the characters or the outcome. Some of it was a bit unimaginative and cliché. Narration was good.
"What a great read!"
Loved the story. Shriver has a gift for portraying economic climate through human interactions and his storytelling has a welcoming humour beneath the harshness of the situations.
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