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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: #626,275 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: Paperback
This book is so over-the-top that I think maybe it's supposed to be a satire. How else can you explain a protagonist who's a middle-class girl from a Chicago suburb who gets admitted to Radcliffe in 1967, just in time to indulge her great radical impulses, but then pulls back to become an Ivy League attorney, Legal Aid lawyer, Supreme Court clerk, globe-trotting corporate lawyer, noted author, Assistant U.S. Attorney General, law school dean, and Supreme Court nominee? Oh, and her best friend from her youth becomes a billionaire film producer-artist-art collector. Between them and other cohorts, they run into everyone on the rise from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Jimi Hendrix to Hilary Clinton.

And what were they doing? They weren't pretending to be 60s radicals, they were real radicals. The trio of Karen, Chuck and Alex grow from teen nerds who pretend that they are James Bond characters to anti-war activists by the time they graduate from high school --- the boys then going to Harvard, and Karen going to the women's version, Radcliffe. While there as freshmen, they throw a few wrenches into the war machine, do a lot of drugs, and decide to commit an assassination. This tale unfolds as Karen, now age 64, is writing her biography and trying to come to grips with what she did, didn't do, and the life that followed.

The conceit enables the author to give a tour of the highlights, lowlights and overall feel of the revolutionary Sixties. And that part of the book is very good. You get a feel for the rapid pace of change in everyday living (plastic, TV, kid-oriented popular music, etc.), politics, and so on.
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