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Summary

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

Critic reviews

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)

What members say

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  • Linda
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 07-06-16

A dreary disappointment

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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a bit of a dissappointment.

a rather hollow argument against a social welfare state, it reads a bit like Ayn Rand - where there is an idealogical point to be made about selfish individualism which means that there is no real critique of the state as a monopoly, on violence but as a poor redistributor of wealth. It is more of a prepper's fantasy than a well researched prediction of how the world might be as the near future unfolds. the readers poor pronounciation of any word beyond a 13 year old reading level grates and I have no idea why any author would allow an audio book reading to be published without better direction.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Epic economic meltdowns of the near future

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.

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Disappointed

What was most disappointing about Lionel Shriver’s story?

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.

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Boring and disappointing

Like most I was looking forward to something like We need to talk about Kevin, but this is really dull. I love the idea of it but the vast tracts of dialogue about economics slows the story to the point of tedium. Gave up which I almost never do with a book!

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Thrilling and immersive

A great listen whether or not you buy into the subtle underlying political sub-message. Excellent narration. Loved it throughout

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Fantastic!

I loved this book! Very believable/scary potential future, couldn’t stop listening. Different from We Need to Talk About Kevin.

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excellent

loved it. great narration. Lionel Shriver's book is profound and expansive painting a future USA that I hope we never witness. Her book reveals a multipolar world and a glimpse of a future without American leadership. While her portrayal of this dystopian world seems largely driven by a spend only, Democrat led lefty government I think recent events show that even though the Republicans have total control of all branches of government they are comfortable blowing up the national debt to give tax cuts to the wealthy. Shriver's book does indicate at the end that a Utopia of sorts emerges in a libertarian society. I am not sure if that is what she believes and admittedly her characters do point out the fundamental flaws. Nonetheless, Willing's articulation of the feeling of freedom is poignant and a reminder that we must be more guarded in protecting our civil liberties especially as we hurtle towards this digital future.

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keep going

Midas it very keen after the first chapter but my son in law had recommended it so I pressed on. I am so glad I did as it was not only an excellent story it gave me a lot of food for thought about how our actions to day have 'repercussions down time.

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  • Edwin
  • Derbyshire
  • 24-04-17

The Mandibles

Lionel Shriver is an odd woman with an odd name who writes odd books. This one she appears to have lifted almost verbatim from "When money dies" about which she has woven a thin storey about people I have little interest in or sympathy with. That said I found the book, (like her other strangely unsympathetic story, We need to talk about Kevin) strangely compelling. So if you fancy a tale about economic Armageddon which may or may not be about to unfold in RL then this is the one for you.

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  • Louco por audiolivros
  • 06-09-18

Lionel é a melhor

Espero com ansiedade o aparecimento de cada título da Lionel na Audible. Amo todos. Este é inesquecível. Um futuro surpreendente. Muito bem gravado.

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  • Mark H. Sutherland
  • 16-04-17

Dystopian, Compelling, Entertaining.

What did you love best about The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047?

It was compelling and credible. Given that the backdrop to the story was economic, and that the characters experienced life in a way very different to our own, this was no mean feat.

What did you like best about this story?

Two things: The author mastered the material to extent that it was convincing and effortless. The authentic detail illustrating how our world could lead to the world of the Mandibles.

What does George Newbern bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His narration was the "authentic voice" telling the story. Like the author, he didn't get in the way of the story.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

Shriver explains money. A creation of humans that reflects the essence of humanity.

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  • Batman
  • 12-08-16

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.