For fans of Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Lorrie Moore, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Among the Ten Thousand Things is a dazzling first novel, a portrait of an American family on the cusp of irrevocable change, and a startlingly original story of love and time lost.
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.
"The perennial theme of marital infidelity is given a brisk, insightful, and sophisticated turn in Pierpont's impressive debut.... This novel leaves an indelible portrait of lives blown off course." (Publishers Weekly)
"This book is one of the funniest and most emotionally honest I've read in a long time." (Jonathan Safran Foer)
"Remarkable.... Pierpont displays not only wisdom, but real tact as a writer, knowing how much to say, how much to leave out, how much to imply." (Colm Tóibín)
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Oh Kay, Oh Simon...
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.
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.