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The Humanity Project Hardcover – April 23, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press (April 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399158715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399158711
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #838,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013: When a school shooting sends a damaged teen named Linnea to live with her lazy, pot-smoking father in California, she becomes immersed in a world in which everyone nurses a deep sense of economic doom and financial hopelessness. “Times were bad for everybody, everybody had it coming” writes Thompson, and this: “The world was one big goddam banana peel, waiting for you to slip on it.” One character feels like “they’d changed the rules when he wasn’t looking and drained all the good luck out of the world.” These sympathetic and recognizable people--“the overeducated and the underemployed”--lose their homes to Bank of America; suffer due to a lack of health insurance; shamble through dull, low-paying jobs; tame their sorrows with weed, Percocet, and booze as they bemoan their “shitcan” lives, their “getting-by” lives, their “waiting for the next kick in the head” lives. At times, The Humanity Project reads like the love child of Dickens and Barbara Ehrenreich. And yet, remarkably, Thompson makes us care, gives us hope, showing us that the whimsy of a few good-hearted people can inspire others to strive to become their better selves. A father can help his daughter; a son can help his father. And, while bad things can and do happen to decent (if flawed) people, the decent can fight back. --Neal Thompson

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Thompson (The Year We Left Home, 2011) achieves exceptional clarity and force in this instantly addictive, tectonically shifting novel. As always, her affection and compassion for her characters draw you in close, as does her imaginative crafting of precarious situations and moments of sheer astonishment. The plot revolves around two southern California single fathers and their teenage offspring. Sean is struggling to find construction work as his house goes into foreclosure. His son, Conner, should be looking forward to college, but, instead, he, too, is scrambling for a job. Art, a pot-smoking, part-time college teacher smitten with his neighbor, Christie, a worldly-wise nurse and the moral fulcrum of the novel, has played no role in his now 15-year-old daughter’s life. So both he and Linnea have a lot to navigate when she moves in after surviving a school shooting in Ohio. All lives converge and are transformed when a wealthy widow establishes a hazily conceived philanthropic organization. Thompson infuses her characters’ bizarre, terrifying, and instructive misadventures with hilarity and profundity as she considers the wild versus the civilized, the “survival of the richest,” how and why we help and fail each other, and what it might mean to “build an authentic spiritual self.” Thompson is at her tender and scathing best in this tale of yearning, paradox, and hope. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling Thompson attracts more readers with each book; a strong publicity push and critical acclaim should carry The Humanity Project to the top. --Donna Seaman

Customer Reviews

Quite possibly the worst book I've read in a long time.
Karen S. Mesko
The main issue I have with it is that there are a lot of characters and not a lot of plot, so the book seems sort of aimless.
Malfoyfan
I loved this book in every way - lyrical prose, complex characters, excellent story.
Robin Campbell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By River City Reading on April 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Jean Thompson's newest novel, The Humanity Project, poses these questions before introducing a wide array of drastically different characters bound together with lose connections. Most of the story centers around Linnea, a teenage girl thrown off course by the shooting that takes place in her high school. Her reactionary, wild behavior causes her mother to send Linnea across the country to live with her father, Art, who she barely knows. Completely unprepared to raise a teenage daughter, Art searches for the help of his neighbor, who is busy working with a client to develop a charity aimed at creating good in the community.

This tangled web of characters actually works well at the start of the novel, as they are introduced one by one. However, Thompson seems to feel much more comfortable voicing some of the characters than others. Where Sean, a single father struggling with an addiction to painkillers, comes across with the perfect blend of self-loathing and apathy, Linnea sometimes sounds too much like a pre-packaged teenager.

As the novel progresses, the connections between the characters reveal themselves and grow. Unfortunately, instead of feeling profound, the addition of minor players serves to unnecessarily complicate the story. Layer upon layer of plot eventually begins to work against a novel in some cases, especially when the main question - can you pay people to be good? - becomes an afterthought. The Humanity Project begins with an intriguing idea and solid characters, but loses itself under the weight of its own ambition.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lukester on April 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Linnea moves to California after being involved in a school shooting to live with her absent father, Art, who is spurred by the arrival of his daughter to try and make something of his sad-sack life. Across town, Conner, who always did well in school and followed the rules, is forced to quickly become an adult and provide for himself by any means necessary after his father, Sean, is hurt by a woman trying to escape her own past. Mrs. Foster, dealing with the death of her wealthy husband, is inspired to start a foundation, the Humanity Project, to incentivize people to behave better. She enlists Christ-like Christie, a nurse, to head her foundation. As these characters' lives weave in and out of each other's own journeys, each faces the complicated question: can people start over and be happy despite their past?

This is, in a sense, a bleak novel full of characters facing difficult changes in their lives. Thompson doesn't treat them as victims, but you can't help but sympathize with the characters and get caught up in their transformations. Some succeed while others don't, but in both instances Thompson creates rich characters in beautiful, sparse prose. She doesn't provide any answers in this novel, and if anything suggests that there are no answers, but that doesn't make the journey not worth following.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Humanity Project," by Jean Thompson, is an appealing, subtle, and somber tone poem on the theme of economic dislocation in contemporary America...it is also a ambitious philosophical novel about the human condition. Despite these serious themes, "The Humanity Project" is a delightfully compelling story that includes many mordantly humorous and satiric elements. It is sharply critical about the current state of the world and American culture. It offers no solutions, but it does inspire us and we leave the novel with greater understanding, hope, and acceptance.

This novel deals with seven main characters with intersecting stories. Each character is beset by some kind of major psychological or economic problem, each a victim or product of some significant trend afflicting contemporary American culture. Most of the characters live in and around Marin Country, in northern California, a place that forms a spectacular backdrop and a place where the author can easily demonstrate the vast economic contrasts between haves and have-nots. Five characters are struggling ordinary working-class people, and two are members of the super-rich. There are also many fascinating secondary characters who add to the plot and theme. Thompson has a gift for making virtually all of her characters seem as authentic as anyone you're likely to meet in real life.

Sean is a single dad and a construction worker. He's physically worn down by hard labor and at the bottom of a long economic slide due to the construction slowdown following the 2007 Great Recession. Conner is Sean's eighteen-year-old son. He's a good-looking and academically promising young man who is forced to step up and become a caretaker and the family breadwinner after his father suffers a major auto accident.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bill Petillo on June 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First a very minor spoiler alert. I was intrigued by the title and the suggestion "can you pay people to be good." Unfortunately that question is never really asked. However I loved the cast of characters with their alarming array of financial, emotional and physical miseries. They maintain a mordant sense of humor and optimism which makes this ultimately a very compelling and positive human story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bookbag on June 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Totally satisfying read. Check other reviews for plot summaries. With great artistry and skill, Jean Thompson brings up questions about human nature that call for ambiguous answers. Humanity is ambiguous. At least she asks the difficult questions.
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