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True Believers: A Novel Hardcover – July 10, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Funny, fiendishly smart.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A great American novel.”—Vanity Fair
“A big, swinging novel . . . [a] colorful story . . . This could be the most rambunctious meeting your book club will have for a long time.”—The Washington Post
“Intelligent and insightful . . . Think The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and Atonement, a ’60s-era female Holden Caulfield. . . . Andersen is an agile storyteller. . . . [There are] witty, occasionally even profound observations about the ’60s and today.”—USA Today
“So epic: Part thriller, part coming-of-age tale, the novel alternates between the present and the 1960s, capturing some of America’s most pivotal moments in history like a time capsule.”—Marie Claire
“This is an ambitious and remarkable novel, wonderfully voiced, about memory, secrets, guilt, and the dangers of certitude. Moreover, it asks essential questions about what it means to be an American and, in a sense, what it means to be America.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Fascinating and wisely observant.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Exhilarating . . . sober, thoughtful . . . accessible and often funny . . . an absorbing, well-told tale.”—Fortune

About the Author

Kurt Andersen is the author of the novels Heyday and Turn of the Century, among other books. He writes for television, film, and the stage, contributes to Vanity Fair, and hosts the public radio program Studio 360. He has previously been a columnist for New York, The New Yorker, and Time, editor in chief of New York, and co-founder of Spy. He lives in Brooklyn.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067200
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067206
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,037,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

Karen Hollender is 64 years old and has decided to write the story of her life. She was recently on a short list of candidates for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court but she has taken her name out of the running. In this novel, we find out why and what secret she has been hiding for many years.

In this wonderful book, we learn about Karen's loving, middle-class upbringing in Wilmette, Illinois. It is the early 1960's and she and her best friends Chuck and Alex are all James Bond fanatics and they like to act out clandestine and imaginative spy missions. Told in chapters that alternate between the present and the past. we follow Karen and her friends as they grow up during the turbulent 1960's. As the war rages on in Viet Nam, Karen becomes more radicalized and politicized as so many did during that time. But when that radicalization includes a subversive and criminal plan, everything changes.

I have read several books about the 1960's and the counterculture movement and this may be one the best ones I've read. I thought the author nailed the descriptions of what it was like during that decade and I also thought his observations about the culture both then and today were persuasive and compelling. There were unique things about the 1960's for sure, and no doubt America did lose its innocence and change after the assassination of John Kennedy. But as this book so brilliantly shows us, much of what we thought was so exclusive to that time is more universal and relevant today as well.

This novel is not just an astute look at our culture then and now, it's also the author's shrewd observations about time and memory.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although I'm a few years younger than Karen Hollander, the 65-year-old protagonist of this book, I grew up in the '60s and remember enough to find the period fascinating -- a true watershed time around the world, whether or not you agree with its influence, which is still evident today.

So I looked forward to reading this book, in which Hollander, a respected and accomplished renaissance woman, looks back on her revolutionary acts during the '60s as she writes a book about her life. The story jumps back and forth between the present and that tumultuous decade more than forty years ago, highlighting the things Karen and her associates did in their often misguided attempts to improve the world.

The problem I had was that the story starts out slowly and pretty much takes its time -- not something I expected in a tale about the '60s. There's a lot of focus on the teenaged Karen and her friends' fascination with James Bond books and movies -- and, yes, there is a point to that, but the book takes a long time to reveal it. In the meantime, I found myself thinking, "So what?"

As badly as I wanted to get into this book, I found my attention wandering time after time as I waded through mountains of unnecessary details. I think this is a worthy effort, but in the end it was more of a slog than a sprint.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
... and came out at opposite points of the spectrum.

Karen Hollander, the book's protagonist, is (according to the story) about a month younger than I am, so we shared many of the same cultural experiences at the exact same point in our lives. That made this book doubly interesting to me, especially because those same experiences drove us in directions that were diametrically opposed. She became a leftist anti-war radical, I became a soldier in the Vietnam War.

We were both James Bond aficionados (there's even a blurb to that effect under my picture in the "notes" in my "Class of `66" high school yearbook), liked the same music, went to East Coast colleges, the whole nine yards. She ended up plotting to assassinate LBJ, I ended up as an intel agent in Nam.

That's what made this book especially interesting to me, as it was an insight into the mind of a `60s radical that I found very entertaining.

And this book was, indeed, entertaining. It really moves right along. There's not really much of a plot, per se. It's more a coming-of-age story about how that young radical ended up maturing into a pillar of the community, and a staunch Establishment-type person of the kind that she so despised as a teen "rebel". As such, it's an almost-universal story of teen angst and maturation, though the outcomes between she and I are strikingly dissimilar.

Andersen pretty accurately captures the era and that angst. That's one of the things that I think will make this book especially appealing to those of the same age as Hollander and I. We lived through one of the most dramatic changes of the political scene since at least the Great Depression at an age where we were ripe to be influenced by, as well as influence, the course of events.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sixty-five-year-old Karen Hollander is an attorney with Type I diabetes, a heavyweight résumé and a Wikipedia entry. Her CV includes (but not limited to) author of four best-selling books, dean of a law school, a corporate lawyer in a powerful law firm, and U.S. Justice Department official. She's divorced, with accomplished, brilliant children, and she's devoted to her granddaughter, Waverly, a seventeen-year-old on her way to becoming a likeness of the achieving Karen (with some cute malapropisms that Karen corrects).

The book is told from Hollander's narrative perspective, as a memoir, to gradually divulge a dangerous secret surrounding her activist activities in 1967, an undisclosed event that caused her to turn down a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. This secret, she feels, has emotionally crippled her (and likely the former friends involved). Andersen's rugged skill and talent is displayed here, as he gradually develops a taut, thriller-type story that will keep you turning the pages, and echoes a past that surely is more passionate than its future.

If you enjoy stories about the 1960's hippie/activist days, you will revel in the revolutionary spirit of the counterculture era--protests, sit-ins, intellectual debates--together with thought-provoking ideas that pad the story, but add to the theme and successfully loop into the narrative. Additionally, Karen's 007-role-playing missions with her best friends, Alex and Chuck, define her pre-college years and add colorful background to the story. Their friendship was cemented during these risky and adventurous events that began in Wilmette, near Chicago, and peaked as Harvard freshmen. She now lives in LA.

Because of Andersen's tight pacing and architecture, I was engaged in the story.
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