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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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The Believers (P.S.)

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The Believers (P.S.) Cover

ISBN13: 9780061430213
ISBN10: 0061430218
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

When a stroke fells radical New York lawyer Joel Litvinoff, a secret is revealed that forces Audrey, his wife, to reexamine everything she believed about their forty-year marriage. In the meantime Joel's children are struggling with their own dilemmas and doubts. Disillusioned revolutionary Rosa has been drawn into the world of Orthodox Judaism. Karla, a devoted—and married—social worker hoping to adopt a child, is falling in love with the owner of a newspaper stand. Lenny, the ne'er-do-well, faces yet another relapse into heroin addiction. In the course of battling their own demons—and one another—the Litvinoffs must reexamine long-held articles of faith and decide what—if anything—they still believe in.

Synopsis:

“[Zoe Heller] is an extraordinarily entertaining writer, and this novel showcases her copious gifts, including a scathing, Waugh-like wit.”—New York Times

Best-selling author Zoe Heller has followed up the critical and commercial success of What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal with another tour-de-force on the meaning of faith, belief, and trust: The Believers. Tragic and comic, witty and intense, The Believers is the story of a dysfunctional family forced by tragedy to confront their own personal demons. In the vein of Claire Messud and Zadie Smith, Zoe Heller has written that rare novel that tackles the big ideas without sacrificing page-turning readability.

About the Author

Zoë Heller is the author of Everything You Know and What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and made into an acclaimed film starring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench. Heller lives in New York.

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OneMansView, May 16, 2011 (view all comments by OneMansView)
The downside of “belief” (3.75*s)

Set in NYC around 2002 [though not a 9-11 book], the book is a cautionary, prickly story on the personal and social limitations and costs that can accompany a mindset that is obsessively devoted to political causes. The sudden, total incapacitation of 72-year-old Joel Litvinoff, noted left-wing lawyer, from a stroke lays bare the dysfunction that permeates his family ��" from wife Audrey, two daughters Karla and Rosa, to son Lenny.

Audrey, thirteen years younger than Joel when rescued from a London life of oblivion on a chance meeting forty years prior, and with no political inclinations, became well known in New York’s trendy radical circles for her sharp putdowns and rapier wit as Joel’s counterpart in his various causes. But over time that sharpness hardened into something far less amusing. Her indifference towards her growing daughters is only one marker on her off-putting path that Joel’s coma fully reveals. Audrey by turns is imperious, rude, abrasive, judgmental, condescending, self-centered, overly sensitive, etc. No one is spared her harshness: Joel’s doctors, her friends, and especially her daughters.

Karla, a meek do-gooder with a tendency to gain weight, is constantly subjected to her mother’s withering criticisms. Her marriage to a pretentious, dominating union organizer is mostly an indicator of her low self-esteem. Rosa, cut in the mold of her parents, is contemptuous of modern society, but recently has become disillusioned after a four year stay in the supposedly socialist paradise of Cuba. Abruptly, Rosa, a committed atheist, embarks on a stumbling effort to attain the internal peace that she feels is part of Orthodox Judaism, but constantly has to confront the arbitrary controlling aspects of religion, as well as her mother’s total dismissiveness.

Audrey, though hardly likeable, is somewhat understandable. If not to be viewed as merely an appendage to Joel, perhaps she had to adopt a more attention grabbing stridency. She and her husband’s desires for social perfectionism did not prepare her for the realization that Joel was imperfect in being faithful, undoubtedly a factor in her cynicism. Audrey exhibits far more kindness towards the adopted Lenny, son of an incarcerated radical with a life sentence, putting up with his dissolute, drug-using life. Almost grudgingly, Audrey begins to deal with a life without Joel, including some recognition of her adult children’s needs.

The writing is very sharp, erudite at times, with many insightful observations concerning any number of matters. The characterization of Rosa’s empty-headed roommate is classic. All of the leading characters are exaggerated to some degree, especially Audrey. It is difficult to accept that a woman, who is so well informed on so many subjects, could be so resolutely hostile, oblivious to her impact on others. But the author also aims at other excesses. What could be more absurd than Rosa failing to properly observe light switch protocol in the course of her religious instruction? The story may well be not particularly enjoyable, but it is not without its edifying, interesting aspects.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061430213
Author:
Heller, Zoe
Publisher:
Harper Perennial
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Literary
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series:
P.S.
Publication Date:
20100131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8.16x5.28x.90 in. .61 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Family Life

The Believers (P.S.) Used Mass Market
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Product details 368 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780061430213 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , “[Zoe Heller] is an extraordinarily entertaining writer, and this novel showcases her copious gifts, including a scathing, Waugh-like wit.”—New York Times

Best-selling author Zoe Heller has followed up the critical and commercial success of What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal with another tour-de-force on the meaning of faith, belief, and trust: The Believers. Tragic and comic, witty and intense, The Believers is the story of a dysfunctional family forced by tragedy to confront their own personal demons. In the vein of Claire Messud and Zadie Smith, Zoe Heller has written that rare novel that tackles the big ideas without sacrificing page-turning readability.

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