When radical New York lawyer Joel Litvinoff is felled by a stroke, his wife, Audrey, uncovers a secret that forces her to reexamine everything she thought she knew about their 40-year marriage. Joel's children will soon have to come to terms with this discovery themselves, but for the meantime, they are struggling with their own dilemmas and doubts.Rosa, a disillusioned revolutionary, has found herself drawn into the world of Orthodox Judaism and is now being pressed to make a commitment to that religion. Karla, a devoted social worker hoping to adopt a child with her husband, is falling in love with the owner of a newspaper stand outside her office. Ne'er-do-well Lenny is living at home, approaching another relapse into heroin addiction.In the course of battling their own demons - and one another - the Litvinoff clan is called upon to examine long-held articles of faith that have formed the basis of their lives together and their identities as individuals. In the end, all the family members will have to answer their own questions and decide what - if anything - they still believe in. The Believers explores big ideas with a light touch, delivering a tragic, comic family story as unsparing as it is filled with compassion.More
Get ready for a ride. Zoe Heller's eagerly awaited third novel, The Believers, delivers as a follow-up to the celebrated What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal, which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film. Though this one's about family, there are still plenty of scandals to go around. The New York Litvinoff clan is not, by any means, a very likable bunch, nor do they live the ideals they espouse. The liberal, self-professed open-minded parents can defend and sympathize with alleged 9/11 terrorists both in court and in theory, but not with their own adult daughters for much lesser offenses (Rosa for turning to religion, and Karla for turning fat). Their adopted son Lenny, though an addict and a liar, gets off easier. When patriarch Joel suffers a stroke in court and sinks into a coma, an event that would pull most families together, the Litvinoffs remain viciously, comically at each other's throats -- especially spitfire mother Audrey, a British transplant to New York who always has the last word.
And giving that word extra oomph is narrator Andrea Martin. A Broadway-trained actress, Martin turns the tale into a performance. She takes command in the prologue, set in 1962 London, with impeccable accents (there are many throughout the book) and tones, equally adept at voicing the men and the women, and never looks back. Her Audrey, already a force to be reckoned with, gains momentum. Whereas others may have made the matriarch seem perpetually angry -- especially when proof of Joel's philandering comes to light -- Martin is able to hit both the sadness and comicality in her quips. In fact, Martin makes the wide cast of characters more relatable and individual on the airwaves than they may at first seem on the page. Her timing, cadence, and staccato rants are spot on, bringing out the humor in the book that may have been lost to a lesser narrator. When you reach the end, you'll want an encore, even if it is just more privileged people behaving badly. Kelly Marages
"One of the best novels of the year." (Sunday Times)
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Great writing, not-so-great narration
- Annie M. "Say something about yourself!"
grating, but really great