Synopses & Reviews
“Bakopoulos has invented a man for all rainy seasons—a horny, heartbroken cousin of Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe.” —Tom Piazza
“A winning distraction, a smart entertainment.” —New York Times Book Review
A clairvoyant when it comes to the Starbucks orders, a renegade when it comes to bureaucracy, Zeke asks almost everybody he meets, “Why are you so unhappy?” The answers he receives—a mix of true sadness and absurd complaint—become the core of an obsessive project, “The Inventory of American Unhappiness,” a project that becomes all the more personally meaningful as he follows steps outlined in a women’s magazine on finding the perfect mate. Incisively tapping the voice of one of the most charming—and deluded—narrators to come along in years, Dean Bakopolous captures our zeitgeist with lacerating wit and a big heart, confirming Jonathan Miles’s (author of Dear American Airlines) claim that “there’s no such thing as unhappiness when you’re holding a Dean Bakopolous novel.”
“Hilarious and heartfelt . . . This funny-sad novel seems to take elements of the author’s own life . . . and twists them in a funhouse mirror—with delightful results.” —NPR
“Tough, wise and funny. . . . A sustaining, intelligent novel about how the big questions affect and change all our small lives.” Anne Enright, author of The Gathering
“A moving, deeply intelligent look at intellectual loyalties-to ideology, religion, family-and the humans attached to them. This is a wonderful novel.” Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland
“Profoundly satisfying. . . . Heller injects that difficult-to-pinpoint something-or-other that elevates soap opera to art. . . . The Believers pulses with . . . something deep and lasting and larger than mere story.” Lionel Shriver, author of The Post-Birthday World
“A beautiful, oftentimes hilarious, razor-precise portrait of a family, a city, and an examination of the eternal and universal urge to embrace something, anything, greater than ourselves.” Richard Price, author of Lush Life
My American Unhappiness
"shimmers with mischief and offbeat charm. A dark entertainment infused by a bluesy yearning for a better America."
—Kirkus Reviews "Bakopoulos writes with great heart and a cold eye, and his limpid, ironic prose will appeal to those who like the early work of Martin Amis."
—Library Journal "My American Unhappiness is a smart, funny, charming novel - an incisive critique of the way we live now, but aremed, unlike contemporary satire, with a big, generous heart. I got addicted to the misadventures of Zeke Pappas. I didn't want the book to end."
—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply
"In Zeke Pappas, Dean Bakopoulos has invented a man for all rainy seasons - a horny, heartbroken cousin of Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe, telling a long, tall tale of anomie in the heartland."
—Tom Piazza, author of City of Refuge
"If the nature of despair, as Kierkegaard wrote, is to be unaware of itself, then Zeke Pappas is its perfect spokesman: a blithely deluded nebbish whose epic longings—to document the emptiness at the center of American life and to win the heart of Sofia Coppola and/or his local Starbucks barista—propel him into ever more twisted predicaments. There's no such thing as unhappiness when you're holding a Dean Bakopoulos novel in your hands."
—Jonathan Miles, author of Dear American Airlines
"Vivid as a searchlight gliding across suburban picture windows , MY AMERICAN UNHAPPINESS displays its author's saddened comic wisdom, as apparently self-effacing as it is marvelously inventive and observant. Dean Bakopoulos is a writer to watch, a novelist to cherish."
—Peter Straub, author of A Dark Matter
"Zeke Pappas, the visionary behind the American Unhappiness project, is the perfect hero for our times - an age of J. Crew catalogs and Starbucks lattes, of political absurdities and almost-fractured families barely holding themselves together. In telling Zeke's story, Dean Bakopoulos brings together razor-sharp comic timing, brilliant social commentary, and big-hearted compassion that embraces the imperfection of American life. The result is a smart, funny and exceptionally entertaining book."
—Alix Ohlin, author of Babylon and Other Stories
"My American Unhappiness is a major accomplishment from one of my generation's finest storytellers, a profoundly funny, moving, beautifully-detailed, and ultimately hopeful portrait of our country in a certain moment. Its self-deprecating hero, Zack Pappas, earnest, kind, and brooding, with wry intelligence and deep compassion, is indelible. I loved every page of this book. The torch has been passed -- Dean Bakopoulos is our next great Midwestern writer."
—Davy Rothbart, The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas: Stories, founder and editor of Found Magazine, contributor to public radio'sThis American Life "Dean Bakopoulos in an American prophet — who divines the end of optimism in this brilliant new novel that will choke you with tears and laughter. My American Unhappiness deserves a hallowed place on the shelf somewhere among Studs Terkel's Working and Walker Percy's The Moviegoer. "
—Benjamin Percy, The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh
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.
“[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.
A witty and emotionally raw novel from the award-winning Dean Bakopoulos that introduces Zeke, a scholar looking for love—and a second chance at life.
About the Author
Dean Bakopoulos is the author of the novel Please Dont Come Back from the Moon, a New York Times Notable Book, and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is on the faculty at Iowa State University and the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.