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Want Not Hardcover – November 5, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547352204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547352206
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This ambitious, if somewhat overlong second novel from Miles (Dear American Airlines) concerns the tribulations of three very different, but interconnected, families in the New York City metropolitan area, beginning during Thanksgiving weekend 2007. Talmadge Bertrand and Micah Rye are €œfreegan€ squatters in downtown Manhattan, subsisting on what they collect from dumpsters. After Micah becomes pregnant, Talmadge begins questioning whether their lifestyle is suited to raising a child. Elwin Cross Jr., a middle-aged linguistics professor living in suburban New Jersey, has recently been left by his wife, Maura, for one of her publicity clients. Distraction from his troubles comes from an offer to consult on a contentious government panel studying the safe, long-term disposal of radioactive waste. Forty-something mother and part-time actress Sara Masoli struggles with her husband Brian's tragic death in the 9/11 attacks, while raising her headstrong teenage daughter, Alexis. Sara's current husband, the smart but immature Dave, runs a profitable, shady debt-collection agency. Though an excess of backstory and character detail sometimes slows the book's pace, mordant humor and a well-constructed plot manage to hold together Miles's sophomore effort. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM. (Nov.)

From Booklist

In this follow-up to the critically-acclaimed, seriously funny Dear American Airlines (2008), Miles traces the intertwining lives of half-a-dozen characters tied together by a culture of excessive consumption and ridiculous waste. Micah and Talmadge, New York City squatters who met at Burning Man, try to make it as freegans in Manhattan. Sara, who lost her husband on 9/11 and has since remarried, grapples with the legacy of her adulterous ex as an uncomfortable dynamic develops between her new husband, Dave, and her daughter, Alexis. A linguistic expert on dead languages, Elwin copes with the crisis of his ruined marriage, his seemingly obsolete expertise, and his father’s worsening Alzheimer’s. Even with so large a cast, Miles manages to move at a steady clip through multigenerational stories and family histories while still delving deeply into each character’s particular quirks and oddities. With forthright wit and stunning intimacy, Miles doesn’t hesitate to broach the uncomfortable consequences of unchecked abundance and desire. The result is a wild tangle of high-octane, entertaining prose, an astonishing leap for this accomplished novelist. --Diego Báez

Customer Reviews

The novel is clever, humorous and extremely readable with great stories.
Elizabeth Hendry
Jonathan Miles... this is a well constructed story with great character development and great ending.
E. W. Strubel
It's really a 2.5-star book, because half the time, I didn't really like it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By River City Reading on November 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The majority of Jonathan Miles’ second novel, Want Not, is told in three separate stories – a freegan couple dealing with welcoming a third person into their squat; a washed up linguist, attempting to juggle a separation from his wife with his father’s worsening Alzheimer’s disease; and a blended family, made up of a 9/11 widow, the man she married for security and her angst-filled teenage daughter. Natural desire eventually pushes these starkly different characters toward one another, in a surprising conclusion.

As its title suggests, want is the driving force of the novel, guiding the decisions each of Miles’ characters make. Even Micah and Talmadge, the freegan couple pulling bruised produce from dumpsters in New York City, have underlying desires that are picked apart in this dense character study. But those desires are not haphazardly assigned. By the middle of Want Not, the amazing depth at which Miles understands his characters becomes apparent – down to a preferred bathroom stall and carefully plotted childhoods. Miles shares these details not to stretch out the mundane, but to breathe real, vibrant life into his story. And it works. Each player in Want Not’s web feels whole and, as the novel progresses, has a purpose that becomes clear.

Where other authors with books of similar structure attempt elaborate schemes to bring their characters together, Jonathan Miles joins his three stories in a natural, believable way. Both hilariously funny and painfully honest, Want Not captures the best and worst of the human spirit in a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Louis N. Gruber VINE VOICE on November 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Elwin Cross, Jr., is a professor of linguistics, whose life is in shambles, abandoned by his wife, while his father is progressing through the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. He is currently consulting on a most unlikely project--designing a radioactive waste site in such a way that future humans won't stumble into it even thousands of years in the future. Talmadge and Micah are urban squatters, surviving on scraps salvaged from dumpsters. Alexis is a bright but clueless college student. There are many others too-all equally clueless, trying to salvage something, almost anything from the wreckage of their lives. I couldn't spoil the plot for you if I tried, because there isn't much more than I've already told you. What the book has are characters and scenes. Exquisitely well-written scenes of improbable large and small disasters, unfolding as the characters' lives continue unraveling.

Author Jonathan Miles has a gift for language, plays with language, creates his own words, and displays a riotous sense of humor. Some of it is bathroom humor, to be sure, but at his peak moments, he is simply outrageously funny. He doesn't always reach these peaks. Sometimes I had to put the book down and rest after a page or two. Colorful characters abound, talk, ruminate about their lives, and make their situations worse, but it's sometimes hard to keep them all straight. Near the end of the book their chaotic paths intersect briefly, bringing the novel to its climactic final moments.

This book is hard to review because it doesn't fit into the usual categories and its quality is so mixed. Moments of sheer comic genius, yes, intriguing characters, yes, and also stretches of ill-defined chaos and confusion. I recommend this book but it's clearly not for everyone. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By K. Sullivan VINE VOICE on October 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Talmadge and Micah are idealistic young squatters in Manhattan who live as "freegans" (vegans purposefully living "off the grid"). Dr. Elwin Cross, a linguist who teaches at a New Jersey college, was recently abandoned by his wife. He's been selected to participate on a panel to suggest a means of meaningfully marking a massive radioactive dumping ground for posterity. His father, Elwin Cross Sr., resides in a nursing home, his mental condition deteriorating from Alzheimer's disease. Dave runs a successful debt collection - er, acquisition - company. His wife Sara, a widow in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack, has a teen daughter, Alexis. "Want Not" tells the stories of these three groups in alternating chapters. While the link between them is certainly thematic, their worlds do marginally intersect by the novel's end.

The novel's title calls to mind the old adage, "Waste not, want not." As the narrative opens with Talmadge scavenging in a trash heap, the reference is none too subtle. There are other blatant references, like the aforementioned radioactive wasteland (and even the scatological), but there are more creative allusions as well. It may be a tad harsh and biting (but also undeniably apropos) when the nursing home is also characterized as a trash receptacle - ready to receive society's unwanted castoffs. In fact, it's just such poignant and potentially troubling observations that (almost?) redeem the novel.

There's very little narrative cohesion to the story. Perhaps this is a natural consequence of alternating the chapters between the cast (even within the smaller groups). But it also arises because the author chooses to jump back and forth in time to anecdotally support his themes rather than tell a conventional story.
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More About the Author

JONATHAN MILES's first novel, Dear American Airlines, was named a New York Times Notable Book and a Best Book of 2008 by the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Amazon.com, and others. It was also a finalist for the QPB New Voices Award, the Borders Original Voices Award, and the Great Lakes Book Award, and has been translated into six languages.

A former columnist for the New York Times, he is a Contributing Editor to magazines such as Details, Garden & Gun, Men's Journal, and Field & Stream. His Field & Stream cooking columns were collected in the 2013 cookbook, "The Wild Chef." His work has been included numerous times in the annual Best American Sports Writing and Best American Crime writing anthologies.

A former longtime resident of Oxford, Mississippi, he currently lives along the Delaware River in rural New Jersey. For more information, including a calendar of appearances, visit http://www.jonnymiles.com or http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jonathan-Miles/10150135297610099.

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