Title: The Believers
Author: Zoe Heller
You might think that a book filled almost entirely with unlikeable characters would be, well, unlikeable. Even though I would not enjoy having dinner with the Litvinoff family, I did enjoy getting to know them (at a distance) through the book. Joel, a self-important New York civil rights lawyer, suffers a major stroke in the opening chapters of the novel, and his family struggles through a year where he's gone, but not dead. His kids are timid (Karla), self-righteous (Rosa) and addicted (Lenny) and his wife Audrey's world view and inability to hold her tongue gets her in trouble with everyone.
Heller's book is described as satire, which I guess means that we're supposed to see the Litvinoff's as larger (or ruder) than life versions of real human beings. But the contrast between young Audrey meeting Joel for the first time, and Audrey forty years later both shocked and depressed me. Can giving your life to raising a family and supporting a (good?) man's needs and causes turn a woman into an unhappy, directionless beast who finds joy in keeping her kids co-dependent (Lenny) and in speaking her mind, whatever the cause? If nothing else, The Believers feels like a cautionary tale for stay-at-home wives and moms to diversify and not make spouse and kids the sole focus of one's life.