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At the Bottom of Everything: A Novel Hardcover – September 3, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307907988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307907981
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #958,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Haunted by a secret from his adolescence that resulted in the end of his relationship with his best friend, Adam Sanecki tries to navigate his adult life by ignoring the past, until it comes roaring back, in Dolnick's poignant, if at times clichéd, novel (after You Know Who You Are). His time at Dupont Prep in Washington, D.C., was awkward for Adam until he met Thomas Pell, the resident oddball genius. The friendship evolved until the two boys were spending nearly every day after school at Thomas's house; an extra place was regularly set at the dinner table for Adam. Interspersed with Adam's boyhood memories are scenes from his lackluster adult life, where he's working half-heartedly as a tutor, half-considering law school, and sleeping with the mother of one of his tutees. The incident that splintered Adam and Thomas's friendship is certainly horrifying but not altogether unique in the world of fictional seminal moments. In the present, Adam ignores the repeated pleas of Thomas's parents, Richard and Sally, who beg him to help them track down their wayward son—now a mentally unhinged dropout, last seen in India. Adam's eventual acceptance of the task is inevitable, and while Dolnick depicts a journey that is both mentally and spiritually taxing, the outcome and resolution are the least interesting aspects of a story that takes its strengths from the richly drawn characters. (Sept.)

From Booklist

In the follow-up to You Know Who You Are (2011), Dolnick expertly magnifies the minutiae of youth, loneliness, and a friendship gone wrong. Living in Washington, D.C., at 26, Adam Sanecki isn’t where he’d once imagined himself. Fresh from a breakup and perpetually avoiding law school, he begins tutoring middle-schoolers to give his life meaning. It doesn’t help that he has been sleeping with a tutee’s mother, has been shirking his family, and, most troublesomely, has received multiple pleas from the mother of his onetime bestie, Thomas, to reconnect with her son. Brainy, unpopular, and unsightly, Thomas endured adolescence by seemingly disabling his emotions, a characteristic Adam once admired. They had sleepovers, philosophized, and dreamed of girlfriends until an alarming accident drove them apart. As Adam sloughs through his twenties, reconfiguring the past, he finally journeys around the globe to reconcile the foreboding secret he shares with Thomas. In this coming-of-age-at-least-twice novel, Dolnick’s insights into life’s bleaker spells are wise and entertaining, making for an invigorating and transcendent reminder of how haunting old friendships can be. --Jonathan Fullmer

Customer Reviews

The story line and the characters are comfortable.
Miss Kitty
Dolnick brings these characters to life with his intimate and vivid writing.
Storyhunter
Dolnick's writing is clear, accessible, insightful and nuanced.
waitbatw

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By alice5 on September 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
i got an advanced copy of this book and reading it was truly awesome. it just gets everything right - the story of a friendship forming between two boys, the shock of what ends their friendship, and the question of whether or not you can really have a life after something horrible's happened.

ben dolnick's writing is really astute. there are no fancy fireworks or silly gimmicks, it's just solid good writing that manages to be sensitive, gripping, haunting, and even really funny. there's an element of adventure in the second half, including a super intense, raw scene in india that really shook me and showed me a different side of the characters, and of dolnick's writing.

reading this book is like seeing the world through the eyes of someone with a special and quiet insight into other people's inner-workings. i would definitely recommend it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By waitbatw on September 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
At the Bottom of Everything is Ben Dolnick's best work yet. It's a wonderful book.

It tells the story of Adam, a failed-to-launch millennial whose dark secret inextricably links him to his childhood best friend, Thomas. When Thomas goes missing, Adam leaves his privileged suburb and travels to the far side of the globe, where he must make peace with his past and with himself.

Dolnick's writing is clear, accessible, insightful and nuanced. At the Bottom of Everything is a joy to read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By saranwal on September 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Amazon and the other reviewers summarize the plot (without spoiling it) well, so I'll keep this simple: Ben Dolnick has a talent for using the written word to create meaning in the connections and spaces between people. I have always liked his writing, and this is his best work and story yet. I think there's something in "At the Bottom of Everything" for everyone, and I recommend it to all.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Love on September 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I really loved this book.
It was funny and insightful, and brought me back to that time in life when you're tying to figure out who you are, and whether to escape your past or bring it along with you.

The author has a kind of astuteness and steady/quiet intelligence that gets you right into this boy's head, and his thoughts and feelings. And then we get to grow with him and take his journey with him, and you honestly feel a little grateful for being allowed to tag along.
The book doesn't plop all the answers on you, and has one of those endings that will have thinking about it, and yourself, for days after finishing.

A really lovely book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hoffer on September 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Adam and Thomas were best friends when they were growing up in Washington, DC. Thomas was one of the brightest kids in their prep school--quirky, unique, aloof--and Adam welcomed the opportunity to try and crack his shell. Plus, Adam envied Thomas' stable home life, a mother committed to social justice and a father who values his intelligence.

Their friendship was fairly intense until high school, when Adam began focusing on sports, girls, and parties, and Thomas continued down his own path. Yet partly out of obligation and partly out of nostalgia, the boys still got together briefly, and their encounters became focused more on mischief and pranks. One night, one of their schemes goes dangerously out of control, and the aftereffects cause their friendship to end. And while Adam can move beyond the incident, it affects Thomas far more intensely.

Fast forward 10 years, and Adam's life isn't quite going in the direction he had hoped. Lonely and depressed after his breakup with his girlfriend, bored in his job as an academic tutor, he begins a brief affair with one of his students' mothers which, as you might imagine, doesn't end well. He is unsure what to do with his life or what to make of himself. A chance encounter with Thomas' mother brings his former friendship back into his mind, especially as she asks for Adam's help to try and find Thomas, who has apparently disappeared to India.

"'What I really want to make sure you know is just that your old friend, skinny Thomas Pell, is drowning. We all are, and we're reaching out to you for help.'"

But Adam thinks, "'Your old friend is drowning.' Well, so was I."

With nothing to keep him in the U.S., Adam embarks on a journey to find and rescue his old friend, and follows his trail to India.
Read more ›
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Storyhunter on September 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Read this book if you love good writing. Dolnick brings these characters to life with his intimate and vivid writing. But it's more than a coming of age novel, (though I loved those aspects of it as well.) There's a sense of dread and mystery that builds throughout, winding its way from a suburban childhood all the way to India, which is presented as a mysterious and strange land with its own rules. There's a spiritual element here where Dolnick grapples with some of the big questions, but it doesn't wrap up neatly and will keep you reading late at night. I recommend this as highly as any book I've read recently.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lins TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"At the Bottom of Everything", by Ben Dolnick, was an amazing reading experience; one I'll not soon forget.

As the novel begins we know only that something monumental has happened to Thomas and that he is missing. Our narrator, his former best friend, Adam, is the only person, besides Thomas, who knows what happened and why. Adam is a wonderfully witty, sardonic, navel-gazing narcissist. As he "gets to the bottom of everything" in recounting the story of his friendship with Thomas he takes us to their middle-school meeting and friendship through...Adam alternates between bringing the reader up-to-date on the Thomas situation and describing his own current life state which includes a complicated relationship.

The first half of the novel sets up what happened to make Thomas (and Adam) go off the rails, and the second half concerns Adam's trek to find Thomas and bring him home to his family. It is in this second part that the novel really picked me up and carried me away with it. Without giving anything away, Adam goes to India to find Thomas and this part of the narrative is grippingly visceral. We realize that all of Adam's insistence that he doesn't really want this task of finding Thomas, is a lie because no one would do what Adam does without truly caring for his friend AND/OR in an effort to atone for his own sins.

"The tunnel did get narrower, and I didn't turn around." These words and what follows had me enthralled. Sure, the tunnel and "the bottom" here is both real and metaphorical, yet I read this part feeling squeezed and claustrophobic. What a writer to be able to do that!
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