Everything You Know

Zoe Heller, Author Alfred A. Knopf $22 (224p) ISBN 978-0-375-40724-6
Willy Muller, the 55-year-old antihero featured in Heller's debut novel, is a hack journalist, absent father, convicted murderer and all-around unsavory character who must come to terms with his past when his teenage daughter Sadie commits suicide. Muller became estranged from Sadie and her older sister, Sophie, when he was imprisoned for murdering his wife and their mother, Oona. After being released on appeal, out of a job and desperate for cash, Muller wrote To Have and To Hold, a lurid confessional novel about his marriage and his wife's death. The book's publication earned him the scorn of friends and family, and Muller fled England for Los Angeles, leaving his two rebellious, emotionally damaged teenage daughters and pursuing a life of feeble ghostwriting and shallow society. The novel opens with Muller recuperating from a heart attack and reevaluating his life with the help of a box of Sadie's diaries, sent to him after her death. Reading the words of his ill-fated daughter, he can no longer deceive himself about his sorry behavior. Muller's intelligent, defensive and increasingly self-aware narration is counteracted poignantly by the heartbreaking voice of young Sadie as she tries, with little help from anybody, to cope with cruel boyfriends, her teen pregnancy and her own baby. Heller, formerly a New Yorker staff member and a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, pulls off this potentially heavy-handed story with great aplomb. She brings out the absurdities and hypocrisy in all the settings visited here--low-rent Hollywood, a resort town in Mexico and working-class London. A genuine but hilarious jerk, Muller abuses and offends a range of characters in all these locales, from his insipid girlfriend, Penny, to his vampiric agent, Art, to his surviving, conniving daughter, Sophie. But proving that faith can be just as interesting as cynicism, Heller gives her characters a few hard-earned moments of reckoning. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
Paperback - 203 pages - 978-1-250-00374-4
Paperback - 197 pages - 978-0-14-103999-2
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-7434-1195-0
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-676-97870-4
Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4299-5258-3
Open Ebook - 978-0-307-36952-9
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!