26 February 2009

The Believers; Zoe Heller

The Believers: A Novel The Believers: A Novel by Zoë Heller

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

What do you believe? In religion? In Causes? In family? In marital fidelity? In drugs? In helping others?

These are some of the areas covered in Heller's newest book. Joel Litvinoff, a Kunstler-esque lawyer, is felled by stroke at the start of the book and spends the rest in a coma. How will his family (wife, daughters, adopted son, mistress) and friends react to their loss, and will their beliefs change is the question?

One daughter questions her marriage, her desire for children and starts an affair... the other explores Orthodox Judiaism (after four years in Cuba). His son goes in and out of drug rehab. His wife must decide how to react to being his soon-to-be widow, and what to do about the "other family" he's also left. By the end, I felt that all of them had had their belief systems shaken, and most had, in some way, changed as a result.

The exception was Audrey, Joel's British-born wife. As a mother she truly made me angry at times, and cringe at others. There were times I wondered how much of her was put on, and how much was her real personality. In some ways, though, Audrey felt like another version of Barbara Covett (from What Was She Thinking.
Sadly, not every character was as well drawn, and there were moments when I felt exasperated with them for not being better characters. I wish Jean had been stronger, and that Rosa had been less one-dimensional. Had that not been the case, this would have been a five-star read.

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