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At the Bottom of Everythingby Ben Dolnick
Synopses & Reviews
A stunning novel of friendship, guilt, and madness: two friends, torn apart by a terrible secret, and the dark adventure that neither of them could have ever conceived.
It’s been ten years since the “incident,” and Adam has long since decided he’s better off without his former best friend, Thomas. Adam is working as a tutor, sleeping with the mother of a student, spending lonely nights looking up his ex-girlfriend on Facebook, and pretending that he has some more meaningful plan for an adult life. But when he receives an email from Thomas’s mother begging for his help, he finds himself drawn back into his old friend’s world, and into the past he’s tried so desperately to forget. As Adam embarks upon a magnificently strange and unlikely journey, Ben Dolnick unspools a tale of spiritual reckoning, of search and escape, of longing and reaching for redemption — a tale of near hallucinatory power.
"Haunted by a secret from his adolescence that resulted in the end of his relationship with his best friend, Adam Sanecki tries to navigate his adult life by ignoring the past, until it comes roaring back, in Dolnick's poignant, if at times clichéd, novel (after You Know Who You Are). His time at Dupont Prep in Washington, D.C., was awkward for Adam until he met Thomas Pell, the resident oddball genius. The friendship evolved until the two boys were spending nearly every day after school at Thomas's house; an extra place was regularly set at the dinner table for Adam. Interspersed with Adam's boyhood memories are scenes from his lackluster adult life, where he's working half-heartedly as a tutor, half-considering law school, and sleeping with the mother of one of his tutees. The incident that splintered Adam and Thomas's friendship is certainly horrifying but not altogether unique in the world of fictional seminal moments. In the present, Adam ignores the repeated pleas of Thomas's parents, Richard and Sally, who beg him to help them track down their wayward son — now a mentally unhinged dropout, last seen in India. Adam's eventual acceptance of the task is inevitable, and while Dolnick depicts a journey that is both mentally and spiritually taxing, the outcome and resolution are the least interesting aspects of a story that takes its strengths from the richly drawn characters. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“An engrossing, often wrenching novel about the limits of love and friendship, not to mention self-knowledge. Dolnick writes with wisdom, humor, and real grace.” Sam Lipsyte, author of Home Land and The Fun Parts
“Dolnick writes with the assurance and wisdom of an author twice his age. At the Bottom of Everything turns a story about a childhood friendship into a moving exploration of the deepest questions life offers. This book does something more important than depict the ‘way we live now.’ It asks whether the way we live now is really ‘living’ at all.” Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver
“A remarkable story about the enduring nature of childhood friendship and the burdens that such a friendship can impose on a person regardless of age or will. It’s a clear-eyed, unwavering look into the nature of guilt and the ways in which a split-second decision can change the lives of people forever. I found myself both breathlessly racing to the end of the book and also terrified to turn the final pages. It is one of those stories that will remain in my mind and heart for a long, long time.” Matthew Dicks, author of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
About the Author
Ben Dolnick is the author of the novels You Know Who You Are and Zoology, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and on NPR. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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