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Breaking and Entering: A Novel Paperback – January 10, 2012

3.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Eileen Pollack’s new novel, “Breaking and Entering,” takes place in rural Michigan in 1995 — the epicenter and high point of the militia movement, before increased scrutiny and revulsion at the Oklahoma City bombing put some militia groups out of business and sent others underground. (Though not a militiaman, the bomber Timothy McVeigh attended their meetings and spent time on a Michigan farm with his fellow conspirator Terry Nichols.) The Oklahoma City attack comes about a third of the way through Pollack’s book, a real-world event that informs and shadows the fictional ones. ...Quite a lot of bad things happen in “Breaking and Entering.” Pollack is an engaging writer with a first-rate eye for the telling sociological detail.... Since the author’s intent is to explore intolerance, hatred and evil, it is not enough that these forces merely simmer and self-perpetuate. The stakes are raised, and escalating consequences play out. ...—Jean Thompson, The New York Times Book Review

A compassionate, humorous new novel about the ambiguities of modern life. After his patient commits suicide, a shattered Richard Shapiro and his wife, Louise, both therapists, move from upscale, liberal Marin County, California, to a rural Michigan village in 1995. But so much for the great escape: Louise takes up with a magnetic married minister, and Richard befriends members of the local militia, which has ties to the Oklahoma City bomber. Set against the backdrop of a divided America, Breaking and Entering by Eileen Pollack is a novel laced with compassion, humor and wisdom about the ambiguities of modern life. —Lynn Schnurnberger, More Magazine

Louise Shapiro is thoroughly beset in this thorny, lucid novel. Her bad luck begins in California, where her husband abandons his psychology practice and takes a job in a rural Michigan prison. Louise struggles to adjust to the heartland, which seems overpopulated with religious nuts and militia members. Her husband drifts away into a rebellious, gun-toting fugue, and the lover she takes becomes remote in his own way. ... Her increasingly nuanced view of the sociopolitical divide is reflected in Pollack’s sensitive portrayals of both liberal Louise and her ilk, and their conservative counterparts. Weaving the personal with the political, Pollack... creates an encompassing haze of dissatisfaction and misdirected passion. Despite the unrelenting misfortune, though, the tone is more solemn than dark; there’s a beautiful contemplativeness, and a believable sense of redemption in the end. —Publisher’s Weekly

An exploration of Tolstoy’s dictum about unhappy families....A rich and satisfying novel that explores in a significant way contemporary issues of family, religion and politics.—Kirkus Review


“…a very real accomplishment―an admirable, serious, and important novel of ideas that does not neglect characters.” (Antonya Nelson)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Four Way; Original edition (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935536125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935536123
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,494,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kathy Cunningham TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
Eileen Pollack's BREAKING AND ENTERING explores what it means to live among people whose differences seem like barriers to understanding. Louise and Richard Shapiro are happy living in San Francisco until tragic circumstances destroy their illusions. Shattered by a patient's suicide, Richard decides to take a job as a psychologist at a prison in central Michigan, and Louise reluctantly goes along with the move. She hopes to salvage the remains of their disintegrating marriage and find a safe place to raise their 6-year-old daughter, Molly. What they find in Michigan, however, are people whose attitudes and values are completely different from their own. Their neighbors are members of the same militia group that spawned Timothy McVeigh, the local church is passing out grotesque flyers against abortion, the school principal is homophobic, and both racism and anti-Semitism are preached on the local radio station. This is not an easy environment for a liberal Jew and his agnostic wife.

BREAKING AND ENTERING is set in 1995, around the same time McVeigh and his cohorts bomb the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. Pollack's crisply written story is told from multiple perspectives, giving us insight into how her many characters see the world around them, but also leaving us a little lost in trying to figure out whom to trust. That, of course, is the point. It's not easy to figure out whom to trust in this world or ours. Do we judge people by the company they keep, by the books they read, by the WWJD bracelets they wear, by how tolerant they are (or aren't) of people who believe different things? Are the people the Shapiros meet dangerous . . . or just different? Can you always tell when someone is a monster, or can banality be deceiving?
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My book club made this book a recent selection, and we ended up very divided. One of our most typically-critical readers rated it highly because she found the characters so believable. But I, who tend to like most books, gave it one of the lowest ratings in our group.

I liked the writing and the way the author crafted the story. She clearly has a gift with words. In the end, however, there was a paucity of likable characters--and those are critical for me to really get into a book. I want to care about what happens to the people in it. The most sympathetic characters, in the end, are the ones that seemed least worthy in the beginning of the story. Maybe that's the gift of Pollack's writing and I'm not appreciating that sufficiently.

I do recommend this book as an eye-opening if chilling insight into the kind of people drawn to militia movements. The "bad guys" are not cartoon villains.
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Engrossing, insightful novel. The characters rang true and the plot was so interesting. The novel is set in rural Michigan in the time of the Oklahoma City bombing: a young family transplanted from San Francisco tries to adjust to small-town life and to a different set of values. Ms. Pollack uses evocative prose for the physical setting and the characters' inner lives.
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