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Jack Shanley is a well-known New York artist, charming and vain, who doesn't mean to plunge his family into crisis. His wife, Deb, gladly left behind a difficult career as a dancer to raise the two children she adores. In the ensuing years, she has mostly avoided coming face-to-face with the weaknesses of the man she married. But then an anonymously sent package arrives in the mail: a cardboard box containing sheaves of printed emails chronicling Jack's secret life. The package is addressed to Deb, but it's delivered into the wrong hands: her children's.
With this vertiginous opening begins a debut that is by turns funny, wise, and indescribably moving. As the Shanleys spin apart into separate orbits, leaving New York in an attempt to regain their bearings, 15-year-old Simon feels the allure of adult freedoms for the first time, while 11-year-old Kay wanders precariously into a grown-up world she can't possibly understand. Writing with extraordinary precision, humor, and beauty, Julia Pierpont has crafted a timeless, hugely enjoyable novel about the bonds of family life - their brittleness, and their resilience.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By JFC on 08-26-15
What made the experience of listening to Among the Ten Thousand Things the most enjoyable?
Hillary Huber's narration really knocked me out; it added so much to this story.
Re the story itself, Julia Pierpont writes beautifully and vividly, and this is an amazing assured debut novel. I was ambivalent about the timeline switch in the 2nd section, though; overall, it struck me as more of a stunt than as anything that deepened the story.
What about Hillary Huber’s performance did you like?
She did a beautiful job differentiating between the key characters. Most narrators vary their voice to distinguish between the characters. She did that to some extent, but she also did something better and, I think, much harder - she subtly varied her delivery. I definitely plan to look for other books that she has narrated.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
By David on 07-27-15
Oh Kay, Oh Simon...
A sculptor, Jack, ends a casual but intense affair with a young admirer, almost a groupie, that lasted several months. The novel opens after the break-up, when the young woman writes a letter to Deb, Jack's wife, enclosing a box of printouts of the passionate emails Jack had sent during the affair. Regrettably, the box is opened by Jack and Deb's 11-year-old daughter, Kay, and the novel takes off. The novel glides easily among the points of view of Jack, Deb, Kay and her 15-year-old brother Simon. Jack shows some remorse, but he is preoccupied with his latest gallery show. Deb grows angrier. And Kay and Simon, supporting characters, deal with their parents' mess in their own troubled and surprising ways.
The author makes a surprising structural choice midway. In a brief chapter, she discloses what happens to her four major characters in the following decades, then returns to the current story for the balance of the novel. It is a stunning move, but it also makes the second half of the novel less suspenseful. There are still plenty of nice moments, some humor and some intriguing new characters, but there is also a sense of futility. We know how it all turns out. Maybe we feel more for the characters, knowing how they will end up. Overall, the novel is very well-written and always believable.
The narration by Hillary Huber was excellent. She had a voice that sounded like Deb, soft and slow and calm, almost as if she'd taken a Xanax. She does a nice job differentiating the voices without calling attention to herself.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful