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The Believers

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 review with 4 star rating   See All Ratings
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  • Posted November 18, 2008

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    Thought-provoking Story With Original Characters

    'The rabbi shrugged. ¿Faith is hard, Rosa. Nonbelievers often speak of faith as if it were something easy, a cop-out from the really tough business of confronting a meaningless universe, but it¿s not. It¿s doubt that¿s easy.' - From The Believers-<BR/><BR/>When Audrey Howard meets Joel Litvinoff - a radical American lawyer - at a party in London in 1962, she is a shy and unsure young woman. But years later, now married to Joel and living in New York City, Audrey has remade herself into a brash, foul-mouthed liberal who views the world cynically and lashes out at everyone around her. When Joel collapses from a stroke and lapses into a coma, Audrey is forced to face not only her out of control temper (and the consequences of it), but her loyalty to a serial adulterer whose shadow she has always lived within.<BR/><BR/>The Litvinoff family is a complex, rather dysfunctional group of people. Rosa, the youngest daughter, is struggling with her Jewish roots and lack of faith; Karla, the eldest daughter, finds herself in a loveless marriage and struggles to develop enough self-esteem to seek the happiness she is not sure she deserves; and Lenny, the adopted son, battles drug addiction. Despite the strong personality of their father, the Litvinoff children are really more influenced by Audrey - whose boredom with motherhood and barely concealed anger at the world (and her husband in particular) dominate their lives.<BR/><BR/>Zoe Heller has written a thoughtful and provocative book about politics and religion. Thematically, she explores how individuals discover themselves, while residing within a family whose beliefs threaten to suffocate their uniqueness. Heller¿s ironic style and black humor are effective in teasing out the pitfalls of all belief systems - whether they be ¿politically correct,¿ religious, or socially radical. By choosing a mostly unlikeable protagonist (Audrey), Heller risks alienating her readers. But, instead, her ability to balance the character¿s negative traits with the very real human emotions of fear, isolation, and grief allows for empathy.<BR/><BR/>I enjoyed the twists and turns of this cerebral novel which moves steadily forward as each character resolves their conflicts - both externally and internally. This is a book which will create great discussion about the core beliefs individuals carry as they stumble through their lives.<BR/><BR/>Recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2010

    A Good Read

    I enjoyed this novel better than 'Notes on a Scandal.' The characters were interesting and I liked the ideas they represented even though I didn't find any of them particularly sympathetic. This is more a thinkers read than an episodic novel but it was still a page turner for me.

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  • Posted February 13, 2009

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    interesting family drama

    Over four decades since the 1960s leftist activism of their youths, Audrey and Joel Litvinoff had hoped their children would have some of their enthusiasm. However, instead they live radically different lives than their parents as each of the trio attempts to escape from what they perceive has become perpetual hypocritical activism. Rosa works with troubled teens which leave her questioning right from wrong as defined by her parents. Following a Castro period, Karla has turned to marriage to escape her parents and their unending drone beat of get involved. Lenny has turned to drug addiction as his escapism.<BR/><BR/>Even Joel and Audrey have changed. Joel relishes his role as star attorney to the ¿Un-American¿ while Audrey has become shrewish re her mantra you are either part of the solution or part of the problem while sipping expensive champagne. She especially turns ugly when Joel falls into a coma after a stroke and his hypocrisy surfaces.<BR/><BR/>This is an interesting family drama as the activist parents head into late middle age, their offspring rebel against their refrain in differing ways. The five Liviniff brood are fascinating antagonists with differing personalities. However, none takes charge of holding the story line together. Instead the premise feels in many ways as an ensemble cast running from each other even when all gather at the hospital. Thus the parts are intriguing and well written but are greater than their sum.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted November 19, 2008

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    Seeing is Believing

    I really enjoyed reading this book. I have not read any other books by Zoe Heller, but I plan to do so now. I think she made the characters really come to life in this book. I felt like I knew them personally. While I could not identify with any of their struggles, I found myself feeling a mix of emotion for each of them; ranging from anger to sympathy. The book moved along at a good pace and was for the most part an easy read.

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  • Posted November 19, 2008

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    Great Read!

    When I first started this book I didn't think I would like it, but I was pleasantly surprised.<BR/><BR/>The family is very dysfuntional but I liked each character. I enjoyed the way the author took us on each personal journey. We got to see each person's private struggle and how the whole family reacted to each other.<BR/><BR/>I did not appreciate all the times Audrey cursed, but I understand why the author made her that way.

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  • Posted November 18, 2008

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    Something to Believe In

    Zoe Heller's third novel is filled with interesting characters, though not all are likeable. There is Audrey, the matriarch of this dysfunctional family and Joel, her husband, who spends the novel in a coma but is very much a presence. We see the impact of this couple and their beliefs on their grown children-Rosa, Karla, and Lenny. Heller is an excellent writer and pulls you in from the beginning. This book is more character driven, but has enough plot to keep you going to the end. I highly recommend it.

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  • Posted November 18, 2008

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    The Believers by Zoe Heller can be completely absorbing in a few seconds.

    This book was about a family who was above and beyond most average families. Some call it dysfunctional but I just see it as a different view from the normal. Especially our day and time with parents both working homelife is completely foreign to what it was a few years back. The actual meeting of the mother and father was a unusual opening for a relationship to begin and prosper on to maturity. <BR/>The father, Joel was a lawyer and helped the so called underdog to win his case. He was on the famous side of his profession and was well-known.<BR/>Audrey his wife was from England, who Joel met when he visited England. Audrey was very aloof with her children not seeming to spend quality time with them through childhood and they grew up with a few problems. There was two daughters and an adopted son who Audrey always looked the other way when he didnt live according to the rules.He wouldn't work and was strung out on drugs constantly. This book teaches alot about how not to raise a family and if you duplicate this story while raising your children, it could turn out this way or worse. Audrey too, was all in to her husband and all was provided for him because of his profession. She neglected her children constantly for this reason. But you can find love even here with this family when you have read this book and get to know all the characters that show up here. I loved the book and got into it right away. Also you can find humor in this book, some of it is dry and it is not really a laugh out loud book but at times I saw the humor in what the author was saying.

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  • Posted November 19, 2008

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    Reading is Believing

    Bravo!!! Another wonderful book by Ms. Heller. This book took me in immediately. The characters are diverse and connected through family. Joel and Audrey the Socialist idealists, Lenny, the adopted son with the drug problems, Karla, the married daughter struggling with her own identity and Rosa looking for something to believe in. <BR/><BR/> When Joel is felled by the massive stroke, all the characters are brought together in unique ways showing how they will deal with this situation.<BR/><BR/> I found the book easy to read and easy to follow. I loved it.

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  • Posted November 18, 2008

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    The book is already making the rounds with my coworkers!

    The first 20 pages didn't work for me, and then the author drew me in and I couldn't wait each day to find some reading time. This book is very well written and it has been interesting to see the onion-skin layers of Ms. Heller's writing and plot reveal themselves through discussion with other members of the First Look Book group. Obviously, you can tell from the headline on this review, I have recommended it to my book buddies at work. I've also recommended it to the Sisterhood at my mother's place of worship for their monthly book group as a potential selection for their group. A very interesting read.

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  • Posted November 17, 2008

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    "The Believers", Believe It or Not

    Interesting book with radicalism, religion and dysruntional family dynamics thrown in.<BR/>From the first you are drawn in to the story of the life of Joel and Audrey and their grown children, with Joel's stroke playing the back drop.<BR/>The changes they all go through in their quest for understanding, love and learning to stand on their own makes an interesting read.

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  • Posted November 17, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A very interesting character study of a fairly unlikable family.

    I found this book interesting and thought provoking. It was well written, and moved at a good pace. The characters were well developed and the writing style was "show not tell". While none of the characters in this book were people I could personally related to, they were consistent in their actions and very believable.

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  • Posted November 15, 2008

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    The Believers

    This is a story of a family. While the catalyst of the story is the stroke and subsequent lapse into coma of Joel Litvinoff, the father, that familial drama actually takes a back seat to the search-for-self that each of the other members of the family experience at this time. Audrey, the mother, apart from her husband of 40 years for the first time, begins to discover that the contentious mask she donned as a young girl has gradually hardened over the years and has changed her. The children, Rosa, Karla, and Lenny, are all looking for a way to define themselves. Rosa turns back to the religion her great-grandparents previously deserted. Karla, an exceptionally passive and submissive person, looks for a way to take control of her life and happiness. And Lenny tries to free himself from drugs and become a contributing member of society. Throw into that mix an ex-lover and illegitimate child of Joel's and you have fireworks waiting to happen.

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  • Posted November 12, 2008

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    I Also Recommend:

    A look at the far left

    Zoe Heller introduces us to the Litivinoffs a family in turmoil, who gets dosed with reality when the patriarch falls ill.<BR/>In her novel The Believers Ms. Heller has given us five very different personalities in this family. We learn what it means to them to be a radically believing family, what it costs them to have this belief and who still believes that way by the end of the book.<BR/>The characters are all memorable, even though a few you'd like to be able to forget and very well developed. Her writing style is unique and has a bit of a british feel to it.<BR/>You will love to delve into the psyches of these people to see what makes them tick.

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  • Posted November 10, 2008

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    The Believers

    Sometimes the end justifies the read; this ending for me was a good one. The Believers by Zoe Heller, is the tale of a family at a cross roads. When the family¿s patriarch collapses, the family starts to unravel quite quickly. The book presents a cross section of the things people believe in: marriage, religion, values, ourselves, family, etc¿ It also examines and tests the character¿s faith in their beliefs during tumultuous times. <BR/><BR/>There were times I definitely wanted to put the book down. The biggest contention was one of the novel¿s central characters, Audrey, who is horrid at times. She is awful to her children and hypo and hypercritical of everyone else. And due to the novel¿s structure we are forced to feel her presence in every chapter. <BR/><BR/>My strong reaction to Audrey, is a good example of how well characterized the novel is. The Litvinoff family is alive. As a counterpoint to my dislike of Audrey, I quickly adored Karla her daughter. She¿s a welcome breath of readability in a sea of self important brats. While some of the other plot lines don¿t really take off for me, and the big surprise is a little expected, I can¿t emphasize how the tie up is worth picking up the book. Even if Audrey can¿t entirely redeem herself, you can at least see how it works out for Carla

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  • Posted October 23, 2008

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    The Believers...how was it?

    This book at first was hard to get into but after reading on it kept my interest. Some of the writing was a bit wordy and hard to keep up with but overall this was a wondeful book. I was surprised at the story after reading what it was about and expected things to happen and they did not...which was good because it was not 'like every other story' that we read. A good book to read. I would recommend it.

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    Posted November 18, 2008

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    Posted February 3, 2009

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    Posted February 19, 2011

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    Posted April 13, 2009

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    Posted June 6, 2011

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