Joseph March has a lot on his plate: he’s bipolar, he's in love, and his mother has just beaten a stranger to death in a hardware store parking lot. By turns disconcerting and illuminating, Shelter in Place is a masterful evocation of mental illness and the limits of love and loyalty. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Set in the Pacific Northwest in the jittery, jacked-up early 1990s, Shelter in Place, by one of America’s most thrillingly defiant contemporary authors, is a stylish literary novel about the hereditary nature of mental illness, the fleeting intensity of youth, the obligations of family, and the dramatic consequences of love.
Joseph March, a twenty-one year-old working class kid from Seattle, is on top of the world. He has just graduated college and his future beckons, unencumbered, limitless, magnificent. Joe’s life implodes when he starts to suffer the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and, not long after, his mother kills a man she’s never met with a hammer.
Joe moves to White Pine, Washington, where his mother is serving time and his father has set up house. He is followed by Tess Wolff, a fiercely independent woman with whom he has fallen in love. The lives of Joe, Tess, and Joe’s father fall into the slow rhythm of daily prison visits followed by beer and pizza at a local bar. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie March, Joe’s mother, is gradually becoming a local heroine—many see her crime as a furious, exasperated act of righteous rebellion. Tess, too, has fallen under her spell. Spurred on by Anne-Marie’s example, Tess enlists Joe in a secret, violent plan that will forever change their lives.
Maksik sings of modern America’s battered soul and of the lacerating emotions that make us human. Magnetic and masterfully told, Shelter in Place is about the things in life we are willing to die for, and those we’re willing to kill for.
"On every page we’re reminded of the paradox of how mysterious, thorny, and delicate family relationships can be." Kirkus Reviews
"An unsettling and beautiful exploration of mental illness, love, violence, family and sexual politics. Maksik’s artful story outruns all sorts of received ideas and cliched narratives, and slips into deeply original territory. You’ll be haunted by it in the best possible way." Katie Roiphe, author of The Violet Hour and In Praise of Messy Lives
"Shelter in Place is a magnificent novel. Alexander Maksik charts the legacy of violence and the limits of justice with grace, power, and clarity." Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and The Tsar of Love and Techno
About the Author
Alexander Maksik is the author of the novels You Deserve Nothing (Europa, 2011) and A Marker to Measure Drift (Knopf, 2013), which was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book, as well as a finalist for both the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and Le Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger.