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The Kept Man Kindle Edition

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Length: 304 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

Fortune Smiles
2015 National Book Awards - Fiction Winner
Get your copy of this year's National Book Award winner for fiction, "Fortune Smiles" by Adam Johnson. Hardcover | Kindle book | See more winners

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this lugubrious first novel from Brooklynite Attenberg (Instant Love), Jarvis Miller is a young, pretty half-widow in the Williamsburg neighborhood. For six years, her brilliant painter husband, Martin Miller, has lain in a coma in a nursing home, while Jarvis rarely leaves the apartment for more than her once-a-week visit to see him. With frequent musings such as Waiting for Martin to wake up is a different kind of waiting than waiting for him to die, Jarvis slowly takes steps to go on with her life, and in the process, begins to suspect that her picture-perfect marriage may have been something else entirely. She finds little solace in Alice, Martin's glossy, possessive art dealer, or in Davis, Martin's louche artist friend. What helps the most is a serendipitous friendship with three married men she meets in a Laundromat, The Kept Men Club; the three are financially supported by their wives just as Jarvis, former party girl, was supported first by Martin, and now by his legacy. Attenberg gets the Williamsburg cityscape correct but builds almost zero tension with Jarvis's depressive brooding over Martin, his continued hold on her and the decisions she faces. Not for a moment in this airless dirge does Jarvis or her marriage feel credible. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Attenberg has an admirable sense of fun...Displays a keen ear for dialogue and a half-cynical, half-affectionate tone that makes even the most venal characters likable.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Told with wit and verve.”

“One finds a great deal to admire here... Ms. Attenberg [is] an able geographer of emotional landscapes.”
New York Sun

Product Details

  • File Size: 512 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (December 27, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 27, 2007
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0011UGMW8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #625,664 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Jami Attenberg is the author of a story collection, Instant Love, and the novels, The Kept Man and The Melting Season. Her last book, The Middlesteins, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and was published in nine countries. Her next book, Saint Mazie, will be published in June 2015. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Warnock on April 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've heard Jami Attenberg read a number of times; from the stuff she's already published, things she's working on, and stand-alone pieces, I could tell that this is the sort of person who takes her writing very seriously and does it well.

It was easy to put myself in her hands as I read "The Kept Man," and I trusted her writer's voice to take us where we needed to go. She wasn't afraid to make her protagonist someone who could be unlikable, and do stupid things; just like a real person. Jarvis is a difficult person, but that stands to reason, because she was married to a great, eccentric artist who was no angel himself. They fit together because of who they were and who they weren't.

Attenberg does a great job in merging the character's internal journey with the changes in her real landscape: the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn changing from artistic to gentrified over the course of weeks, months, and seasons. You can almost smell New York, and the specific identity of that particular Brooklyn neighborhood and the people in it. (Hipsters...and the people who got there before them).

The supporting characters are also well-drawn, from the nurses at the long-term care center where Jarvis's husband rests in a coma to Missy, the car service driver who becomes the best friend Jarvis has, the book feels real and true, and soemtimes that means it's not pretty. But it's good.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Julie Books on January 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
THE KEPT MAN is a beautiful book about love and loss, and how people find themselves stuck and immobile. Attenberg nails modern day Brooklyn, the concept of the proxy urban family, and the art world, and sucks you right in with her stunning prose. Her narrator is compelling and wonderfully flawed and complex, and I read late into the night, unable to put the book down. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on December 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As the first sentence of Jami Attenberg's prologue memorably notes, Jarvis Miller has been waiting for her husband to die for six years. Martin--an artist who isn't household-name famous but is known enough to have inspired a dissertation--has been comatose since he had an aneurism and fell off a ladder in his studio. The tragedy was great for his saleability: Jarvis isn't wanting for money, so she doesn't have to work. She doesn't have to do much of anything. She's just waiting. Unable to move forward because of her liminal status as not-quite-widow, she wallows in the past--visiting Martin, of course, but also poring over his paintings, smelling his shirts every day...still, six years on. (Though no expert in the patterns and longevity of grieving, this struck me while reading as not quite credible. And yet Jarvis is depressed and stuck, and so, I suppose, anything's possible.) Attenberg's narrative captures the period in Jarvis's life when events conspire to push her out of the holding pattern she's been mired in.

Jarvis's story is told in the first person in languorous prose, glimpses of her past with Martin related in patches of back story that interrupt the description-rich narrative of the present. The sluggish rhythm of Jarvis's life is mirrored on the page, in the book's unusually long sentences--there's one that's 162 words long in chapter five--asides segregated from the main thrust of a sentence with dashes: Attenberg makes good use of her punctuational toolbox. (If I'm not mistaken, these long sentences becomes less frequent later in the book, as Jarvis's life itself picks up speed.) Jarvis is a complex, imperfect character. She was saved by her relationship with Martin from a life that was rootless and trivial.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Beth K. on February 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I felt no connection to the main character. She seemed utterly unbelievable to me and without any substance. Also, I found it hard to believe that 3 men in a laundromat (also wondered about the lack of laundry facilities in their well-coifed buildings) were so eager to befriend this woman and welcome her into their circle.

Despite it's flaws, there are moments of beautiful writing...which is the reason for 3 stars.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Donald R. Pollock on January 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Jami Attenberg is a fantastic writer, one that I'm sure we'll be hearing about a lot in the next few years. Though I tend to gravitate toward more gritty stuff, I was completely taken with The Kept Man. I usually don't care much for novels set in big cities, but this one is a winner. Beautiful writing!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on May 6, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Attenberg's first novel makes a sharp right turn between each of its three parts. The book opens with Jarvis Miller enduring life as a "half-widow," her husband on life support for all of six years, his fame (and value) as a painter increasing with every coma-induced minute. Then, unexpectedly, a long-disguised secret is revealed in a second storyline that is vaguely reminiscent of Penelope Lively's "The Photograph" (although it should be said immediately that Attenberg's characters have more, well, character, and "The Kept Man" is the better novel for it). The plot veers yet again, as the drama draws further inspiration from yesterday's headlines--particularly, and most obviously, the Terri Schiavo story.

For most of the book, what could have been a maudlin Lifetime TV movie instead resembles a sharp-witted indie feature film (I can easily imagine Parker Posey in the lead role). Attenberg ramps things up with a gram or two of the diluted "Diet Coke" you might find in the backroom of a seedy Brooklyn bar, and the author's offbeat, modish humor straddles an uneasy balance between irreverent and compassionate. "I was never the party guest they anticipated . . . because my husband was in a coma. My antics were not even interesting in a performance-art kind of way, no Courtney Love hugging the punk hippies around the candle-strewn memorials, and then a year later bouncing back to flash her designer-clad augmented breasts at anyone who would look." Even the droll melancholy of Jarvis's moods evokes the Williamsburg faux-hipster scene.

Yet, for all its scenester cred, "The Kept Man" stays true to its central concern: the impossible choices presented to its heroine.
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