The Believers

Zoe Heller, Author . Harper $25.95 (335p) ISBN 978-0-06-143020-6

Heller (What Was She Thinking? ; Notes on a Scandal ) puts to pointed use her acute observations of human nature in her third novel, a satire of 1960s idealism soured in the early 21st century. Audrey and Joel Litvinoff have attempted to pass on to their children their lefty passions—despite Audrey's decidedly bourgeois attitude and attorney Joel's self-satisfied heroism, including the defense of a suspected terrorist in 2002 New York City. When Joel has a stroke and falls into a coma, Audrey grows increasingly nasty as his secrets surface. The children, meanwhile, wander off on their own adventures: Rosa's inherited principles are beleaguered by the unpleasant realities of her work with troubled adolescents; Karla, her self-image crushed by Audrey, has settled into an uncomfortable marriage and the accompanying pressure to have children; and adopted Lenny, the best metaphor for the family's troubles, dawdles along as a drug addict and master manipulator. Though some may be initially put off by the characters' coldness—the Litvinoffs are a severely screwed-up crew—readers with a certain mindset will have a blast watching things get worse. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 10/20/2008
Release date: 03/01/2009
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