cover image The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047

Lionel Shriver. Harper, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-232824-3

Shriver’s latest opens in 2029, five years after a large-scale cyberattack called “the Stonage” destabilized the American economy and shifted all its transactions off-line. Now President Alvarado addresses the nation to deliver the news that the U.S. is once again under attack by a coordinated international effort to sink the dollar and replace it with a new global currency called the bancor. America’s response is to default on all its loans, including the T-bills held by American citizens. And just like that, the inheritance of the Mandible family, created by an industrialist forebear and stewarded by patriarch Douglas, disappears. With wit and insight, Shriver details the impact of this new era on the Mandible clan, who are forced to come together to weather the crisis. Soon Douglas and his wife, Luella, are kicked out of their retirement community and begin bunking with his “boomerpoop” son, Carter (a journalist back when there were still newspapers), and his emotionally fragile wife, Jayne, in their Brooklyn brownstone. Carter’s sister Avery and her economics professor husband, Lowell, and their three children arrive on the doorstep of her do-good sister Florence, whose job working for the homeless is more stable than Lowell’s academic career. What’s remarkable about the Mandibles is how poorly they adapt to the new normal, perhaps with the exception of Florence’s son, Willing, a teenager with prodigious knowledge of macroeconomics and a dismal worldview formed by the Stonage. Shriver’s (Big Brother) vision has a few blind spots, and a time shift forces significant plot points to be recounted by characters later. Nevertheless, Shriver’s imaginative novel works as a mishmash of literary fiction and dystopian satire. (June)