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The Agnostics (Michigan Literary Fiction Awards) Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Series: Michigan Literary Fiction Awards
  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (August 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472116258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472116256
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,631,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rawlings (Come Back Irish) follows the Wirth family from 1960s Long Island through a generation of transformations and shattered expectations. Bev "Binky" Cohen, a Jewish beauty à la Natalie Wood, marries high-school classmate Stephen Wirth, a mechanical engineer whose parents have a silent disdain for Jews. Bev cares for daughters Louise and Deborah, and gradually develops a career counseling women. As her body changes along with the times, Bev begins questioning gender and sex roles-with a predictable effect on the marriage-while Louise and Deborah have very different reactions to adolescence and beyond. Stephen's attempts to bring religion to what has been a Switzerland-like familial agnosticism marks the novel's turning point. Rawlings writes with vivid sensuousness and a palpable sense of purpose in throwing curveballs at her familiar characters. The result is a probing investigation into the unbearable lovelessness of modern life, and an attendant search for certainty.
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Review

"Rawlings writes with vivid sensuousness and a palpable sense of purpose in throwing curveballs at her familiar characters. The result is a probing investigation into the unbearable lovelessness of modern life, and an attendant search for certainty."
---Publishers Weekly


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mandy on November 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is literary fiction at its best. Vividly drawn characters, brilliant description and detail, a gripping, moving story told with a discerning eye and an open heart. The worn fabric of a family's life is ripped to shreds, then pieced together in a crazy quilt that promises to be more durable and, oddly, more comfortable. Rawlings' writing is exquisite; she truly deserves the Michigan Literary Fiction Award she won for this shattering, humorous, hopeful and memorable novel.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I know this was based on a true story, so I can't fault that. I like complete sentences, all with noun and verb, stc., and so am not as comfortable with creative writing. But it was engrossing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was reading The Agnostics on an Alaska Airlines flight. The woman sitting behind me saw the cover of the book I was reading. She tapped me on the shoulder and said: "That is a totally awesome book."

I agree with my Alaska Airlines fellow passenger.

What makes the book awesome to me is its flashes of insight, as well as its pace as it dips in and out of the lives of a family on Long Island in the twentieth century. Twists, turns, triumphs, setbacks. The book drew me in.
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Format: Hardcover
Wonderful! This chronicle of a Long Island family from the early 1960s through the 1990s is beautifully written, smart, funny, and very moving. Stephen Wirth is from old WASP stock and Bev Cohen is a Jew, but (like many educated, bohemian-leaning young marrieds in the 1960s) neither of them find much relevance in religion. They raise their two daughters, Louise and Deborah, with what they believe is straight, unmystified talk about life and death and the ways of the world. But things get trickier when Bev gets romantically involved first with one and then another woman and the marriage totters. Louise and Deborah realize that even without God there are mysteries, and they must figure out for themselves how to define terms such as "family," "self," and "love." In her Acknowledgements, Rawlings mentions being influenced by the work of James Salter, and The Agnostics indeed has Salter's muscular narrator, lyricism, sly wit, and sometimes-melancholy, sometimes-joyous preoccupation with the changes wrought by the passage of time.
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Format: Hardcover
A tenderly crafted slice-of-life tale, "The Agnostics" tells the story of the Wirths, a coastal Long Island family in the 1970s. The novel begins with Stephen and Bev's marriage and follows the family through the birth and growth of their two daughters, Louise and Deborah. Along the way, Rawlings chronicles the family's struggle to come to terms with many problems, including Bev's romantic trysts with other women, Stephen's feelings of impotence and squandered potential, the Wirths' divorce, one daughter's anorexia, and the other emotionally abandoning her mother. Rawlings also delves into the effects that being raised without religion may have on children, treating the subject with such care and depth that it is evident that she speaks from her own experiences on the topic. At once both jarringly blunt and intriguingly subtle, this novel explores the true meaning of family, spirituality, and humanity in a world where emotional isolation is the norm.
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By Molly Savoy on February 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Wendy Rawlings is a truly gifted writer. I could not put this book down! I became so involved in each character's life that I could not stop thinking about them throughout the day. Her voice is extremely unique...something I have never experienced before! Her attention to detail grabs at your every sense and pulls you completely into the novel. What a delight to read!
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