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The Believers

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 review with 5 star rating   See All Ratings
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  • Posted May 10, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    Heller Hits a Homer

    In Zoe Heller's third novel she explores the nature of belief through the off-beat and often off-putting Litvinoff family. Heller is known for her hard to like characters and this cast is no exception. The philandering patriarch Joel, his long suffering and shrewish wife Audrey,the miserable and conflicted Karla and her sister Rosa, a disillusioned radical socialist turned Orthodox Jew. Not to be forgotten is the adopted youger brother Lenny, a poster boy for solipsism and self-destruction.
    Heller's brilliance lies in her ability to tackle weighty themes through the creation of multi-dimensional and complex characters. You may not love them but in the end they do seem all too real to you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 10, 2008

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    Betrayals and beliefs

    When ultra-liberal defense attorney Joel Litvinoff succumbs to a stroke, falling into a coma, his family is burdened with all the sorrows and anxieties that usually accompany such misfortunes. But the Litvinoff "tribe" is anything but typical. There's wife Audrey, the waspish, strident English ex-pat who viewed motherhood as a distraction, and first child Rosa, who is struggling rather blindly to live up to her parents' socialist principles. Karla is the second-born, beaten down to self-loathing by her upbringing, her husband, and her chronic weight problem. Finally, Lenny, adopted (read "rescued") at age 4, the only one who stimulates Audrey's maternal feelings, and the poster child for learned helplessness. The three Litvinoff siblings are in their 30's now.<BR/><BR/>The Believers is a character-driven satire of a novel, written with psychological insight and, at times, biting humor. Author Heller displays a fine mastery of dialog, wit, and irony. There is not a single extraneous word between these covers. The Litvinoffs, among themselves, have enough emotional problems to support an army of mental health workers. No one, no matter how loved, is spared the vitriol of Audrey's zingers, and gradually, the wellspring of her bitterness reveals itself. While it is often uncomfortable to read about their inner turmoil, injections of sanity are provided by supporting characters, most notably Audrey's friend Jean and mother-in-law Hannah, and Karla's friend Khaled. Heller makes the uneasiness well worthwhile with a brilliant, authentic ending. Perhaps she'll write more about these people; I certainly hope that's the case.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2009

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    I LOVED THE CHARACTERS!

    May 14, 2009. I heard about this book on NPR and am so happy that I decided to read it. Zoe Heller's quirky characters and the interaction among the family members kept me thinking about them long after the book was finished.

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  • Posted April 10, 2009

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    Great characters and story line that taps into the dysfunctional ties of this somewhat "american" family

    I heard about this book on NPR and am so happy that I picked it up. Zoe Heller does an exceptional job at painting a picture of the dysfunctional ties that can bind or break a family. I liked reading about each of the characters and the obstacles that they faced in life. I am looking forward to her next book.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

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    ZOE HELLER IS A LITERARY GIANT

    Following her second novel, What Was She Thinking? Notes On A Scandal,which was not only a Booker Prize finalist but also made into an Oscar nominated film, Zoe Heller presents an insightful, deftly layered
    study of a dysfunctional New York family.

    The author unflinchingly details the derailment of the Litvinoff family after father Joel, is felled by a major stroke which leaves him in a coma. He is a lawyer well known for his political views as well as impassioned defenses of radicals and terrorists. Wife, Audrey is a thoroughly disagreeable woman who disparages their daughters, Rosa and Karla, at every turn.

    After some 40 years of marriage she considers her acerbic comments to be rather charming, sort of beguiling when they are in reality mean spirited and cruel. Karla is an overweight social worker married to Mike, a union organizer, who worships her father. They are unsuccessfully trying to have a child with perfunctory love making that leaves Karla wondering why or how her life came to this.

    Rosa, although raised in a Jewish family devoid of any religious beliefs, finds herself strangely drawn to an Orthodox faith. She attends a synagogue and participates in a Shabbaton, which she describes as "an extended Sabbath with extra lectures and things" in response to Audrey's insulting, irreverent questions.

    No peace or congeniality is to be found anywhere in the Litvinoff clan, certainly not between Audrey and Joel's mother, Hannah, who bicker as "In his silence, Joel had become a perfectly passive prize, an infinitely interpretable symbol: a Sphinx whose meanings and ownership they could squabble over forever, without fear of decisive contradiction."

    Revelations occur as the story progresses and without Joel as the patriarchal glue that holds them all together each must make decisions for themselves, discover who they are and what they want to be.

    The pleasure of reading "The Believers" is found in Heller's astute observations of human behavior, her pinpoint characterizations, and flawless, imaginative prose. Who else would describe a dream that Audrey cannot remember as images that were "slipping away from her grasp, like the prizes in a fairground machine falling from the clumsy mechanical claw." ?

    For this reader, Heller is a literary giant, both funny and intelligent, always thought provoking and entertaining.

    - Gail Cooke

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2009

    THIS IS A GREAT BOOK

    I read the reviews on this book and took a chance and purchased it. I love this book. I love her extensive vocabulary. Great writer!

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

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    DON'T MISS THIS ONE

    I loved this book and this quirky family. It got such great reviews that I had to read it. I was not disappointed and would highly recommend it to anyone. This is the first book I've read by this author and hope she'll keep on writing.

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  • Posted December 31, 2008

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    How worthy is to defend strongly your own beliefs?

    The believers, as the own title shows, is about beliefs.The story happens one year after 9/11 events and questions much about "the American dream" and how people live in their own beliefs prison without considering either how a thought, even a word can destroy or giving continuity to beliefs without questioning them.<BR/>After Joel's stroke, his whole family lives a frame of conflicts and what we see is a narrative building of individual dramas allied to the familiar one.Each child has its own conflict: Karla, in a constant fight against weight lose and to become pregnant. Rosa with her inclinations to Jewish in a non-religious family and Lenny in his eternal war against drugs, violence, rehab clinics, childhood traumas and the abandon of a prisoner mother.What is most impressive in the book is how we, readers, can oscilate between love and hate in relation to some characters.The most unpredictable, sardonic, acid and distasteful character is Audrey. A hating and adorable surprise at the same time revealed as reading goes on. All of the characters are constantly defending their own beliefs. As "believers" and "defenders" of their own convictions they hurt others' beliefs. It's a real and human book. Highly recomendable.

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  • Posted November 24, 2008

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    Great!

    One of the best books I have had the oportunity to read in advance. The intriguing narrative and reality of characters linked to some humour and nice vocabulary choices give this book a fluid reading and will to discuss about.

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  • Posted November 23, 2008

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    Smart and Compelling

    This book struck a cord with me. It is a compelling account of a family who when faced with a crisis find their beliefs challenged. The characters struggle with everyday life yet there was humor throughout the story. This was a great book by a great author and I highly recommend it.<BR/><BR/>I also receommend "She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb and The Memory Keeper's daughter by Kim Edwards.

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  • Posted November 18, 2008

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    What do we believe in?

    I enjoyed this new book by Zoe Heller. She writes of believable characters and does not sugar coat relationships. Each emotional trip was real. You don't have to like all the characters to get the message. Truer to the modern family than we might want to admit.

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  • Posted November 18, 2008

    The Believers had my attention from the start

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters were well thought out and the story line was unusual. While I may have found myself annoyed with their behavior this just added to my need to find out what was going to happen next. The dynamics between Mom and her children was fascinating and I highly recommend this book to all!

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  • Posted November 17, 2008

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    The Believers

    This was an amazing book. As you read, you let your mind get captured in the lives of the Litvinoff's and it's difficult to tear away. Their intricate lives give the book it's ups and downs. You love to hate Audrey, but you can't help but to sympathize with her. Her children Rosa, Karla and Lenny have their own lives that centers around their upbringing (which centers around Joel & Audrey's socialist and radical views).

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  • Posted November 17, 2008

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    A Dysfunctional Family at its Best

    What can I say about the book "The Believers?" It truly is one of the best new books I've read in a long time. The characters come across the page as very believable and their odd quirks make you roll your eyes. Ms. Heller is a wonderful writer. She has definitely found her niche with this book. I'd like to see her do a follow-up book in the future so we can find out what happens to these people as they heal from the issues they face in this book.

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  • Posted November 17, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Twinkle, twinkle little star, What you see is who you are.

    This book is extremely well written. The author uses language in such a beautiful manner that I actually stopped and savored certain phrases. It is a perfect bookclub book because everyone will have an opinion that they will want to express. This book made me mad, it pushed my buttons and challenged what I believe. And that is my favorite kind of reading material.

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  • Posted November 12, 2008

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    The Believers---Love Them or Hate Them

    Zoe Heller's well-honed writing style lets you enter the worlds of these "believers" as they struggle with what they think they believe or what they think they ought to believe.Follow the paths of Audrey and Joel who espouse radical liberal views and their family. Many will consider this family dysfunctional, but how could they have turned out any other way? This is an absorbing story!

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  • Posted November 12, 2008

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    I'm surprised!!

    This book was completely different from my typical read. When I first started this book, I felt the I was going to be immediately bogged down by a bunch of one-sided politics; that was not even close to the case. This book is filled with such strong characters, that you truely feel for them, even the sarcastic, bad-mouthed Audrey. Each character has they're own life, but yet they're all connected, and the things that they deal with are real issues that people go through everyday. IE: religon, marriage, adultry, health, drug abuse, children, death and so much more. I recommend this book highly.

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