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These Things Happen Hardcover – November 7, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In Kramer’s warmhearted and appealing novel, we get to know Wesley through his own storytelling and via chapters told in the voices of the significant people in his life. Everyone knows Wesley and his best friend, Theo, are close. After Theo is elected class president in their socially liberal private school, he comes out during his acceptance speech. Controversy and violence follow, and Wesley comes to his friend’s aid. Theo has questions he wants Wesley to ask his father, a gay activist lawyer, and his father’s partner, an actor and chef. Wesley’s mother and stepfather also weigh in. Questions lead to more questions and, ultimately, to examinations of the essentials of life and love. Wisdom and understanding are achieved, but not from the expected sources. Kramer catches the snap of adolescent speech and the concerned tones of the adults with skill. Choppy on the surface, the novel is calm and deep as a whole. Wesley is a remarkable and well-drawn character, as are the adults in his life. Kramer’s tale of coming-of-age and coming out should have wide appeal. --Danise Hoover

Review

“a novel of almost shocking empathy and incredible love.” - Salon Magazine

“Exquisite . . . These Things Happen is greater than the tactility of its descriptions and the tragicomic vivacity of its characters. This is a novel of the sort that defines generations. Weaving together the individual struggles of his various characters with profound empathy, Kramer asks the reader to consider the limitations of genial political correctness, and even the very notion of love . . . . Beauty and tragedy, adoration and resentment perch simultaneously on single sentences, and readers will be hard-pressed to resist the resultant emotional pull. If, as Wesley muses, ‘everything is practice for conversations that haven’t happened yet, with people [we’ve] yet to meet,’ then wandering the pages of Kramer’s novel may be a crucial warm-up exercise for us all. A dazzling tour de force, alternately exhilarating and devastating, and, at all turns, revelatory.”—ForeWord Reviews

"Like the two main characters it so unforgettably etches, Richard Kramer's first novel exemplifies the virtues of both youth and maturity: it manages to be both wise and wide-eyed, sage and sensitive, deeply funny and, in the end, disarmingly touching. The man behind ThirtySomething and My So-Called Life has taken his trademark qualities--the grownup's shrewdness about the way the world works and the adolescent's disarming emotional nakedness--and fashioned from them a very affecting work of fiction." --Daniel Mendelsohn

“Artful, thoughtful and extremely funny, this is a wonderful first novel about artifice and the discovery of true feeling, about the roles we play and what we choose to make of them.” –Cathleen Schine

“An introspective and contemporary character study . . . Earlier in his career, Mr. Kramer worked on the acclaimed television dramas, “My So-Called Life” and “Thirtysomething.” From the former, he has borrowed the focus on teen angst as narrated by perceptive teens. From the latter, he has borrowed the insecurities of highly competent parents caught in the act of flogging themselves for their non-omniscience. These Things Happen is Richard Kramer’s first novel, but he is no novice. This is a well-measured and mature debut.” –New York Journal of Books

"In Kramer's warmhearted and appealing novel, we get to know Wesley through his own storytelling and via chapters told in the voices of the significant people in his life. Everyone knows Wesley and his best friend, Theo, are close. After Theo is elected class president in their socially liberal private school, he comes out during his acceptance speech. Controversy and violence follow, and Wesley comes to his friend's aid. Theo has questions he wants Wesley to ask his father, a gay activist lawyer, and his father's partner, an actor and chef. Wesley's mother and stepfather also weigh in. Questions lead to more questions and, ultimately, to examinations of the essentials of life and love. Wisdom and understanding are achieved, but not from the expected sources. Kramer catches the snap of adolescent speech and the concerned tones of the adults with skill. Choppy on the surface, the novel is calm and deep as a whole. Wesley is a remarkable and well-drawn character, as are the adults in his life. Kramer's tale of coming-of-age and coming out should have wide appeal. -Booklist

“Richard Kramer’s These Things Happen is a jewel of a book: incisive, funny, wise, and moving. It prompted me, on almost every page, to ask the question I’m most glad to find myself asking of a novel, How did the writer know that?”
—Michael Cunningham

“[B]rings his eye for human nature to his debut novel.”—Marie Claire

“There is precious little territory of the male heart into which Kramer does not venture with audacity and tenderness. I closed this book feeling delighted, moved, and oddly privileged to have had such a wise escort on a journey both familiar and utterly foreign.”—Julia Glass, author of The Widower's Tale and Three Junes

“Emotionally resonant...The humanity and love between two people thrown together by circumstance is Kramer’s triumph...”—Publishers Weekly


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Unbridled Books (November 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609530896
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609530891
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Kramer is the Emmy and multiple Peabody award winning writer, director and producer of numerous TV series, including Thirtysomething, My So-called Life, Tales of the City, and Once and Again. His first short story appeared in the New Yorker while he was still an undergraduate at Yale. This is his first novel.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A very odd thing happens when reading Richard Kramer's utterly brilliant novel THESE THINGS HAPPEN: after reading each page there is a reluctance to turn to the next one, as though doing so just might let all the little wonders of the story, the characters, the words, the ideas, the wholly original manner of intermingling the spoken word tattooed into fragments of thought processes or descriptions of place evaporate. But of course they don't and by the end of the first chapter the reader realizes that every page is just as unique and satisfying, allowing these little technical bits of magic to flutter around the atmosphere as we grow into the story itself.

And what a way to make that story! Kramer's tale is a poignant one: Wesley is a bright young sophomore in high school who is living with his father Kenny and Kenny's life partner (it takes a full book to finally come to a name for their relationship) George in an apartment above the little New York City theater district restaurant that George owns (with Kenny). Wesley's parents are divorced and his mother Lola has remarried an ophthalmologist Ben and Wesley has been living with Lola and Ben until it was decided that Wesley and Kenny needed to nurture their father son relationship. George, a wondrous character this George, comes from a theater background and lives in that world psychologically much of the time. He is close to Wesley and bonds more with the boy than Kenny does.

The turning point of the story comes when Wesley's best friend Theo wins an election in school and abruptly announces to the audience that he is gay. Wesley is a bit surprised but accepting and the two boys wonder is being gay a choice and when and how do you `discover' you're gay?
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sheila Blanchette on June 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
And I apologize for the use of that word, but this is not hyperbole. This book truly is a beautiful little gem of a novel. I wished I wasn't reading it on my Kindle because I often found myself wanting to quickly flip the pages and return to that sentence that made me laugh out loud or the one that took my breath away.

One that made me laugh: "Only Maggie Smith can answer this question properly and since she lives inside me, I have no trouble summoning her up." That belongs to George and he is the hero of the story. I wanted him to be my best friend. I wanted to hang around at his restaurant and eat his focaccia and pasta fagioli. If he weren't gay, I would be the one proposing to him. I could have highlighted his entire dialogue if I knew how to use the highlight option on my Kindle.

I also wish I had him around when I was raising my teenagers. This is a line I could have kept in my pocket and referred to often during those years: "I've learned that about kids; never let them know you already know something; let them believe they've brought it to you."

I love coming of age stories. Wesley is a character who belongs right up there with Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. He is a highly intelligent, thoughtful young boy who lives with his Dad, Kenny, and his partner, George. Richard Kramer does an excellent job bringing us into their intimate moments. One of my favorite scenes in the book was a work day morning when George taught Wesley to make waffles and Kenny fielded dozens of phone calls. The dialogue sang here and as a writer I know how difficult it can be to get dialogue pitch perfect.

The characters were nuanced and real. Kenny reminded me of my uncle and godfather who was also married before he "came out.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By KRYNSS on September 4, 2014
Format: Paperback
"This book was a controversial one in my reading group. We are 8 moms, in Winnetka, Illinois,
all of us with sons in their 20’s and early 30’s, two of whom are married to each other,
which is how we met. These things happen, it seems? We have recently read THE GOLDFINCH, and
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, and GONE GIRL, to name just a few. This book got us more worked up than any other we’ve read.
My son (one of the gay ones) recommended it, and when I read it I knew it would be perfect
for our group. For us, in our discussion, this became a book about parenting, and about the hell you can
go through when you have a teenage son whom you deeply love and because he is a teenager suddenly decides you are
the worst person in the world. (p.s. We all survived that). The boy in this book, Wesley, reminded me SO much of
my son at sixteen (and Wesley isn’t gay). I read parts out loud to my husband who couldn’t believe the
resemblance, either. In the book Wesley leaves his mother (more on that in a minute) and his stepfather
to live with his father for a while. His father is gay, and has a partner of ten years or so. Wesley badly needs
a relationship with his father but it proves to be very hard to get. Not to ruin anything, but something happens
that is VERY dramatic and the mom finds herself at the center of a very big deal. What she does when faced
with the dilemma of protecting her child shocked us all. The group got pretty heated, which has never happened before.
We all wound up in tears and we all wound up pretty much thinking the mother was a wonderful person and
wondering if we could have been like her in that situation! Personally, I doubt it.
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