By Zoe Heller
Harper, Hardcover, 9780061430206, 352pp.
Publication Date: March 1, 2009
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 forty-year marriage. Joels 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. Neer-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.
Hailed by the Sunday Times (London) as "one of the outstanding novels of the year," The Believers explores big ideas with a light touch, delivering a tragic, comic family story as unsparing as it is filled with compassion.
“A moving, deeply intelligent look at intellectual loyalties-to ideology, religion, family-and the humans attached to them. This is a wonderful novel.”
-Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland
“Tough, wise and funny. . . . A sustaining, intelligent novel about how the big questions affect and change all our small lives.”
-Anne Enright, author of The Gathering
“Profoundly satisfying. . . . Heller injects that difficult-to-pinpoint something-or-other that elevates soap opera to art. . . . The Believers pulses with . . . something deep and lasting and larger than mere story.”
-Lionel Shriver, author of The Post-Birthday World
“A beautiful, oftentimes hilarious, razor-precise portrait of a family, a city, and an examination of the eternal and universal urge to embrace something, anything, greater than ourselves.”
-Richard Price, author of Lush Life
Many of the picks from Fresh Air's book critic look back at tough times from earlier eras, or lives upended by disaster. The best books of the year include a work of nonfiction that reveals the hidden fantasy land of a founder of American industry, and a novel that doesn't apologize for the bad behavior of its characters. Plus, a bonus mystery pick. More at NPR.org
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