With dry wit and psychological acuity, this near-future novel explores the aftershocks of an economically devastating US sovereign debt default on four generations of a once-prosperous American family. Down-to-earth and perfectly realistic in scale, this is not an over-the-top Blade Runner tale. It is not science fiction.
In 2029 the United States is engaged in a bloodless world war that will wipe out the savings of millions of American families. Overnight, on the international currency exchange, the "almighty dollar" plummets in value, to be replaced by a new global currency: the "bancor". In retaliation the president declares that America will default on its loans. With "Deadbeat Nation" being unable to borrow, the government prints money to cover its bills. What little remains for savers is rapidly eaten away by runaway inflation.
The Mandibles have been counting on a sizable fortune filtering down when their 97-year-old patriarch dies. Once the inheritance turns to ash, each family member must contend with disappointment but also - as the US economy spirals into dysfunction - the challenge of sheer survival.
Recently affluent, Avery is petulant that she can't buy olive oil while her sister, Florence, absorbs strays into her cramped household. An expat author, their aunt Nollie returns from abroad at 73 to a country that's unrecognizable. Her brother, Carter, fumes at caring for their demented stepmother now that an assisted living facility isn't affordable. Only Florence's oddball teenage son, Willing, an economics autodidact, will save this formerly august American family from the streets.
The Mandibles is about money. Thus it is necessarily about bitterness, rivalry, and selfishness - but also about surreal generosity, sacrifice, and transformative adaptation to changing circumstances.
©2016 Lionel Shriver (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
Anyone who dislikes liberals or conservatives in this present climate should give this a listen with an open mind. The two views of humanity and society DO have some similarities and this book is a commentary on both through the adventures of the book's protagonist. There does seem to be a conservative bent in terms of the government role in American life, the definition of freedom, and taking responsibility for oneself. The liberal POV is exhibited in the characters' incredulity around the conflation of change and loss of identity, clinging desperately to one stagnant view of American identity and the need & respect for family, kindness and community
I have met the characters and find them plausible, overall. I don't believe city dwellers would be as thick as they are portrayed, but understand how this keeps the story moving.
Good listen and riveting with how plausible this dystopian future is. Going too far in either direction could wreak havoc on everything!
Fight for your freedom, don't believe everything you hear, your ally can come in any shade, always be prepared, keep your ear to the ground & always, always be kind to one another... Unless,you REALLY can't. Sometimes, it may pay to be the bad guy in order to be good.
I love doomer fiction and this story had so much potential! But it just fell flat. The storyline was a great one -- wealthy family falls to the level of homelessness after the economy collapses. Something about the delivery was just off, though. The narrator did a fantastic job, but the author's superfluous use of big words was too distracting at times. It's like he had a thesaurus at hand, and felt the need to throw a big, new word in every few paragraphs. I'm an avid reader and have a better-than-average vocabulary, and even I found this to be a bit over the top obnoxious. Also, the characters weren't very likable. Some of them were down right detestable, but it's hard to pull through a novel when you don't really care about what happens to any of the characters. Yes, there were a few great scenes that were really interesting and almost got me to the point where I was really getting into the novel, but enevitably the dumping of information via the guise of family bickering amongst everyone was just too much. Finally, the big leap in time just threw the whole thing off for me. The story was just getting good at the point where the Mandible family was forced to leave their urban home and head upstate to a family farm when *bloop* -- suddenly the story flashes forward a decade into the future. I get what the author was trying to do, but he lost me at that point. It just killed the momentum. I tried to stick with it, but I ended up deleting the book about two hours from the end. I was bored. Still, it has a ton of potential and maybe other listeners out there will like it better. Lots of talk of economic and financial systems. Horrifyingly real.
This is a novel about a future. The problem with the genre is that there are two basic ways to project the author's future reality: straight line or a "black swan" event. Lionel goes with the straight line approach. He does it very well. He projects the course of events as they proceed from the now that we know. He does throw in a black swan but it is insufficient to alter the course he has perceived (I perceive it, too). His introduction of "complexity theory" is suburb. Read Dr. Joseph A. Tainter's "Collapse of Complex Civilizations" although it is not on Audible, it should be.
Voltaire said that it is dangerous to be right when the state is wrong. This is one of the themes here. Good read, I recommend it, especially in this election year.
The Mandibles is fantastic from the start until about two-thirds of the way through the book, when the story shifts forward in time for the last time. At that stage, plot slips away and exposition takes over, with characters doing a lot of telling-not-showing. Things pick up again in the final chapter, but even then, there's just way too much thick description and world building without a purpose to it.
Another strike against it: The narrator has lots of jarring pronunciation issues that derail the flow of the story.
Overall, this isn't as good as "We Need to Talk About Kevin," but its premise is fascinating enough to make it worth a listen.
I was hopeful that this book would be interesting and insightful. All it did was make me angry and annoyed. I don't need this negativity in my life so I bagged it.
a nice enough story, but the economics lessons come on stronger than the dollar after another Greek euro default.
the plot stretches credulity, and characters don't act like people would really act. for example, the mandibles lose their home and car because one man holds them at gunpoint. in reality the family would have called the cops ... the fire dept showed up the chapter previous to fight a fire. instead, the family walks hundreds of miles in winter to a remote farm? i think they would have waited for the gunman to leave the house at the very least, or gotten another gun. silly stuff like that made me wince.
Say something about yourself!
I read a few reviews that claimed this was akin to Atlas Shrugged, so I was pursuaded to listen. That set expectations pretty high for me and I'm not sure if it's flattering or unfair to compare a 15 hr book to the 64+ hr classic. The overall premise was similar (maybe a contemporary version) but it did not have the character development and overall quality (not to mention sheer mass) of Shrugged. Had the bar not been raised, I might have enjoyed it more but I thought it was interesting anyway. The narrator was very good.
The initial premise is creative, and for the first half it is entertaining and provocative; then, in what have could have been significantly fore-shortened, it goes on and on and on, dragging us along as it tells of the family's suffering as victims and then seer-like beneficiaries of first the downfall, and then a Phoenix-like revival, of US civilization.
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