18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Fierce, lash-out-loud, moving,
This review is from: The Believers: A Novel (Hardcover)Zoe Heller is sui generis, a gutsy, peerless writer with master control of her narrative. This is a family saga that takes no prisoners. Her sardonic style is crisp, erudite. Her characters are not caricatures--as outrageous as they are, they feel true.
Audrey Litvinoff, the matriarch, is a flinty, pained woman with a major character disorder. While her husband lies in a coma, she is told some uncomfortable news about his dirty little secrets. With a kind of acerbic, acid aplomb, she spins into a denial that threatens to unravel her. As it is, she is wound so tight that I felt my own circulation threatening to block off. But she is so exuberant that I was often reeling in her energy. She is staggered by her own wretchedness and projects it onto those around her. She is especially harsh to her own daughters, but overprotects and enables her drug-addicted son.
Her daughters, Karla and Rosa, are choked by their mother's dominance and have no sense of their own identity. Karla lives in her husband's shadow and Rosa seeks a self through Orthodox Judaism. Audrey's son, Lenny, could be reductively defined as a spoiled, angry brat. He is certainly a lost soul--a weak, spineless, selfish son of his mother (although he was adopted).
Heller's prose is so muscular it punctures the air, it leaves streaks of blood on your fingers as you turn the pages. I had an out and out blast reading this novel. It is lofty, but wet and juicy and wholly entertaining. The pages flowed with as much alacrity as her narrative. It nearly singed my fingers.
This is my first Heller novel. Some reviewers complain that her characters are not likable. Well, paradoxically, I don't necessarily like a character that is likable. I like them vivid and buzzing and original. Audrey leaps out of the novel and claws your face--and I still had empathy for her. I was moved by her and the events of this story. This is one author that has made a believer out of me.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 20, 2009 8:58:51 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 9, 2009 9:01:10 AM PDT]
In reply to an earlier post on May 23, 2009 4:32:46 PM PDT
Hi, This book is next on my to-read shelf. Right now I'm reading 'Seven Days in the Art World'. What an eye-opener. Thanks for your nice comment about my 'Lowboy' review. I, too, loved the McCann book. Bonnie
Posted on May 24, 2009 2:29:28 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 26, 2009 7:22:02 PM PDT
I was adding you as an 'interesting person' to my profile and you were listed as a 'friend'. Hope that's okay. You just can't vote on my reviews.
Try 'Notes of a Scandal' by Heller. It's overripe. I'm starting 'The Believers' today. Your review of it is great. I just finished 'Seven Days in the Art World'. It's an ethnography about art and the art scene. Art is a commodity and the scene around it is like one big performance piece. Nothing surprising to me as my husband is an artist. That's the main reason we live in Alaska. His website, if you're curious is billbrodyartist.com Bonnie
P.S. I gave your review a 'helpful'. I hope it posted. Bonnie
Posted on May 28, 2009 1:23:51 PM PDT
I finished 'The Believers' and also gave it a '5'. Heller's wit is so acerbic and vituperative that it stunned me at times. I wasn't sure if I was laughing with them or at them. What a great read. Bonnie
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2009 11:44:04 AM PDT
Stephanie DePue says:
Switterbug, You're just as good when you love something,
Posted on Aug 5, 2009 11:01:05 AM PDT
Jill I. Shtulman says:
SBug, you and I agree on this one, too. I love your line, "I don't necessarily like a character that is likable. I like them vivid and buzzing and original." I definitely feel that; I get so tired of reviewers who are looking for happy endings and sunny characters. Those aren't the ones who stay with you.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 5, 2009 10:10:11 PM PDT
Jill--thank you for your generous reply to my review. Sometimes, there is nothing like a naughty protagonist to brighten your day! Happy reading always--
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