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.
©2015 Julia Pierpont (P)2015 Random House Audio
"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)
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.
The characters were decently developed and story was going along pretty well when suddenly the narrative switched to tell the future like it was a Christmas card report you might send out. Then it switched back to the story and the characters in real time. I found this future interruption disconcerting and think the book would've been better without it. The beginning was better than the rest of the book. Only fair in my opinion.
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.
This book is well observed and well written, but was almost too prosaic in its observations and story. All the drama occurs in the first half hour or so.
The reader has severe vocal fry, which is quite annoying. She has a deep, sexy voice that's nice to listen to for about 2 minutes only.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing was poetic and haunting. The story was touching and sad, but very realistic. The narrator was perfect I. Her different voices.
I had no problems with the performance, but after such great reviews, I thought the book would be more interesting.
If there was a take-away from this book, I missed it. Nothing happened. There was no climax, no interesting moments or thought provoking characters, just a bunch of unconnected, pointless scenes tied together...then it ends. Literally, nothing happens. Also, the author jumps back and forth without any warning so half the time you don't know who is talking or what year you're in or what the hell is going on!
This book is the literary equivalent of one of those "art installations" where you watch someone sleep in a glass box in the middle of Times Square. You just stare blankly, not knowing what to think or feel, and walk away saying "well that was stupid."
Our book club attempted to read this but only 2 out of the 20 people could finish it. Also- there were no questions or discussion topics on it so we had absolutely nothing to say. There must be something we're missing... but I'm telling you, it's not worth your time trying to figure it out.
If her other books are like this one, never.
I honestly cannot think of one.
I believe the story had a very real and interesting beginning and you would be thinking it would go one way but then the story starts focusing on something else. A lot of time jump and not an ending I enjoyed.
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