With dry wit and psychological acuity, this near-future novel explores the aftershocks of an economically devastating U.S. sovereign debt default on four generations of a once-prosperous American family. Down-to-earth and perfectly realistic in scale, this is not an over-the-top Blade Runner tale.Read more...
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With dry wit and psychological acuity, this near-future novel explores the aftershocks of an economically devastating U.S. sovereign debt default on four generations of a once-prosperous American family. Down-to-earth and perfectly realistic in scale, this is not an over-the-top Blade Runner tale. It is not science fiction.
In 2029, the United States is engaged in a bloodless world war that will wipe out the savings of millions of American families. Overnight, on the international currency exchange, the "almighty dollar" plummets in value, to be replaced by a new global currency, the "bancor." In retaliation, the president declares that America will default on its loans. "Deadbeat Nation" being unable to borrow, the government prints money to cover its bills. What little remains to savers is rapidly eaten away by runaway inflation.
The Mandibles have been counting on a sizable fortune filtering down when their ninety-seven-year-old patriarch dies. Once the inheritance turns to ash, each family member must contend with disappointment, but also--as the U.S. economy spirals into dysfunction--the challenge of sheer survival.
Recently affluent, Avery is petulant that she can't buy olive oil, while her sister, Florence, absorbs strays into her cramped household. An expat author, their aunt, Nollie, returns from abroad at seventy-three to a country that's unrecognizable. Her brother, Carter, fumes at caring for their demented stepmother, now that an assisted living facility isn't affordable. Only Florence's oddball teenage son, Willing, an economics autodidact, will save this formerly august American family from the streets.
The Mandibles is about money. Thus it is necessarily about bitterness, rivalry, and selfishness--but also about surreal generosity, sacrifice, and transformative adaptation to changing circumstances.
Book clubs: Dollars and sense
Lionel Shriver looks to the future—2029, to be exact—in the smart, insightful The Mandibles, a novel that chronicles the catastrophic effects of a global financial crisis. At the center of the novel is the Mandible clan, who await the inheritance that’s due to come their way once Douglas, the head of the family, dies. When the U.S. economy tanks, due in part to a massive cyberattack, the Mandibles lose their fortune and are forced to give up their affluent lifestyles. The ways in which each member of the family reacts to the loss make for a fascinating narrative. Douglas and his wife, Luella, leave their retirement digs and move in with their son. Daughter Avery and her professor-husband begin living with Avery’s charitable sister, Florence. All are forced to rethink their lives and reconsider old relationships. Shriver presents a chilling account of a country undone by disaster, but she balances the grim proceedings with humor and intelligence.
A SOLITARY LIFE
Brad Watson explores the nature of physical and spiritual love in his acclaimed novel Miss Jane. Set in Mississippi in the early 1900s, the novel tells the story of Jane Chisolm, who is born with a rare disorder of the reproductive system. With an alcoholic father and distant mother offering little in the way of family life, Jane is looked after by her sister, Grace, and by kindhearted Eldred Thompson, a doctor who offers her compassion and understanding. Although Jane’s condition sets her apart, she comes to know love, after a fashion, and the farm where she grows up provides a natural backdrop that’s marvelously alive. Inspired by the life of Watson’s great-aunt, the narrative offers a richly detailed portrait of the rural South. Watson’s bare-bones prose style is arresting, and his portrayal of Jane’s inner life is complex and authentic. Longlisted for the National Book Award, this rewarding novel is sure to be a book club favorite.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
A finalist for the National Book Award, Paulette Jiles’ mesmerizing novel News of the World is a beautifully rendered tale of the Old West that focuses on Johanna Leonberger, a 10-year-old who’s been taken captive by Kiowa raiders. Johanna’s parents and sister were killed by the Kiowa, and she has lived among them since the age of 6. When Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd—a 70-year-old war veteran—comes to take her to live with relatives near San Antonio, Johanna, who has forgotten how to speak English, is frightened and reluctant to go. Their journey home makes for remarkable reading. Along the way, the contradictory twosome smooth out the rough edges of their relationship and develop an unexpected rapport. Jiles writes beautifully about Texas in the late 1870s, using poetic prose to tell a timeless story. Named the top book of 2016 by the editors of BookPage and slated for a film adaptation starring Tom Hanks, News of the World is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction.