Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Believe Me: A Novel

Believe Me: A Novel

4.5 6
by Nina Killham

See All Formats & Editions

In the tradition of Jodi Picoult, a fresh, smart, and deeply moving novel about the power of faith, love, and family

Thirteen-year-old Nic Delano has a lot of questions. Like why does he have a babysitter at his age-and where did she get such long legs? But mostly, what exactly is the meaning of life?

His mother, Lucy, an astrophysicist and atheist, has


In the tradition of Jodi Picoult, a fresh, smart, and deeply moving novel about the power of faith, love, and family

Thirteen-year-old Nic Delano has a lot of questions. Like why does he have a babysitter at his age-and where did she get such long legs? But mostly, what exactly is the meaning of life?

His mother, Lucy, an astrophysicist and atheist, has always encouraged Nic to ask questions. But lately she doesn't like the answers he's getting. Nic has been hanging out with a group of devout Christians and is starting to embrace the Bible—and a very different view of the heavens.

But when unexpected tragedy strikes, Nic and Lucy's beliefs are truly to put to the test. And they need each other now more than ever. But will a mother and her son be able to find a common ground where faith meets understanding and love is, ultimately, what endures?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The overpublished religion vs. atheism debate takes a refreshing turn here. In an understated way, Killham takes a modest run at the great questions: does God exist? if so, where is he when people get ill or get mugged?... a sweet, engaging read.”—Publishers Weekly
"Killham's characters are wonderful, and Nicolas is one of the all-time great thirteen year olds of fiction."—Luanne Rice, author of Follow the Stars Home

"Killham has gone, as it says in the Book of Common Prayer, from strength to strength. Anyone would have been proud to have written this book." —Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

Publishers Weekly

The overpublished religion vs. atheism debate takes a refreshing turn here. In an understated way, Killham (How to Cook a Tart) takes a modest run at the great questions: does God exist? if so, where is he when people get ill or get mugged? These are the matters chewed on by 13-year-old narrator Nic (as in Nicolaus Copernicus) Delano, whose astrophysicist mother, Lucy, is an atheist who believes in nature. Nic's teen hormones make his curiosity more than intellectual, and he's as interested in girls as he is in the Bible, a suitably rebellious topic for an atheist's kid. Nic is attracted to things about the Bible-believing Christian lifestyle: for one thing, his friend's mom bakes cookies. But many things forge the ties that bind. Minor characters could be more memorably drawn, and the interfaith range of beliefs (the Muslim babysitter, the Jewish relatives) is more convenient than convincing. But for those who prefer stories of love, faith and pain to a theological argument about them, this is a sweet, engaging read. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Table of Contents



Title Page

Copyright Page




Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven



NINA KILLHAM lives in London with her husband and two children. Believe Me is her third novel.

Praise for How to Cook a Tart

“A devilish delight . . . smart, sexy, hilarious and not to be missed.”

The Washington Post


“A delicate, wicked comedy that made me want to throw out my margarine and luxuriate in butter. I can relate to a book that celebrates eating and laughs at diets.”

—Tracy Chevalier, author of Burning Bright


“Wickedly funny.”

The New York Times Book Review


How to Cook a Tart is gastro-porn—as if Julia Child and William Burroughs had a bastard child. Filled with magnificent descriptions of the best of food, the novel’s dark subtext left me questioning whether I should cook less and have more sex—or cook more, just with more butter.”

—Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential


“This debut black comedy . . . is not only delicious, it’s simultaneously rare and well-done.”



“A wickedly wonderful dark comedy that makes mouths water and skewers self-proclaimed gourmands, cookbook writers, and self-righteous dieters.”

Chicago Sun-Times

Praise for Mounting Desire

“Thoroughly amusing . . . Her send-up of romance novels is spot-on . . . a very funny, very clever, very adult novel.”

The Washington Post


“Killham’s rollicking second novel . . . cleverly sends up the romance genre while standing as a funny, romantic novel in its own right. . . . Fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable.”

Publishers Weekly


“A dishy romp through the maze of chicks and lit.”



“Well-written and fast-paced. Killham lovingly pokes fun at romance-genre stereotypes. Readers who like wacky humor and can handle a few laughs at the expense of romance novels will enjoy this book.”

Romantic Times


“Killham’s extremely funny take on the dating scene . . . is a highly amusing read.”


Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. •
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario,
Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd.,
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group (Australia),
250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson
Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre,
Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo
Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand
Ltd) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank,
Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published by Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, February 2009

Copyright © Nina Killham, 2009

All rights reserved



Killham, Nina.
Believe me : a novel / Nina Killham.
p. cm.

eISBN : 978-1-101-01479-0

1. Teenage boys—Fiction. 2. Mothers and sons—Fiction. 3. Faith—Fiction.
4. Maryland—Fiction. 5. Domestic fiction. I. Title.
PS3611.I45B35 2009
813’.6—dc22 2008022065

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.


For my children, Lara and Ben


A big thank-you to Elise Laird, Amy C. Fredericks, Stuart Vogel, Tanner Parsons, Jonathan Drori, Lisa Hogg, Isobel Dixon, and Stuart Krichevsky. Special thanks go to my sister, Amanda Davis, for tirelessly reading my drafts, and to Sarah Fortna for reminding me I wanted to write this. And, as always, endless gratitude to Andrew, for making it all possible.

Chapter One

What is the point of life? I mean, why do I have eight kinds of crunchy peanut butter to choose from, and this kid in Pakistan whose house just fell on his head doesn’t even have a word for peanut butter? Why does Darryl Green have five broken bones and I’ve never even sprained my ankle? Why do people die of stupid things all the time?

And I know what you’re thinking. Duh, you moron, you just noticed this now? And no, not just now, but I guess I’ve been thinking more about it because I’m thirteen. Mom calls it the “cusp” of manhood. She says the cusp used to be thirteen forty years ago, though now she says it doesn’t seem to arrive until a guy is at least thirty-five. So I’m thinking, okay, I’ve been born and, eventually, I’ll die, so now what? Am I supposed to do some living? But how? And if I don’t do it on reality TV, does it count?

“Nic, it’s a quarter to eight. You’ve got to go.”

“I’m busy here.”

“You’re still in the bathroom?”

“Can’t rush these things.”

“You’re going to miss the bus.”

“Any minute now . . .”

Mom keeps telling me she wants me to find my passion. She says she’s found hers: stars. She’s this big professor of astrophysics at the University of Maryland. Says she’s lucky because she found her passion early and she wants me to find mine too. She’s pretty intense. Dad says it’s her red hair, and she always frowns and says that’s a cliché. But everyone knows clichés are usually true. My dad now lives in Williamsburg, Virginia. He’s a professor too. He got a job down there, but Mom had just gotten her job here and so she wasn’t budging. They were pretty calm about it. This town isn’t big enough for the both of us, he joked, when he stuffed all his clothes and a billion books into his Volvo and drove off.

It’s not like I don’t see him. I see him lots on the weekends and vacations. It’s been two years now. They’re not divorced; they’re not anything. I’m not sure what their point is. Maybe they’ll let me know.

So I’m living with Mom alone now and every morning she hassles me.

“Got everything?”


“You sure?”


“Great. See you later.”

I’m halfway out the door when I remember. “Oh, we’re supposed to do an oral history project interviewing two generations older than us and turn it in this morning.”

“I’m going to kill you.”

Even when Mom comes home from work wiped out, she doesn’t chill. When she comes home she starts her second job: tormenting me. She’s determined to teach me everything she knows. She keeps a humongous stack of books on the kitchen table. If a question comes up that I don’t know—and I mean any question, like What is the composition of a second generation star? or What era is a trilobite fossil from? or How many sperm does your average chimp have?—she considers it her duty to find out the rational answer then and there. It’s as though, if she doesn’t tell me right away I might break out in a bad case of ignorance and end up believing in astrology or superstitions or, worst of all, God.

She’s got a lot of opinions, my mom. And she’s not shy about telling you. Our car is the National Gallery of Bumper Stickers: FREETHINKER, ATHEISTS BELIEVE IN PEOPLE, PEACE Is PATRIOTIC, and the latest: ASTRONOMERS DO IT FOR The BIG BANG.

Everything is a debate with her. And she’s really smart. Though I got to tell you she sort of wears it on her sleeve. You know, the whole “I’m a brilliant scientist, so what the hell have you done lately?” You know the type. But she’s nice. She just gets worked up about things. Like the M74 galaxy. I mean, let’s face it, the thing is 30 million light-years away. Like it’s really going to affect us. Like it’s really going to change my day. But intelligence is a big thing for her. Nothing lamer than a dumb kid. Of course if you really are a dumb kid she’d sympathize and be all for the government paying for you to have tutoring. She’s no ogre. She just doesn’t like brains wasted. Says they are “the hallmark of humanity.” Lucky for her I’m no slouch in that department. I’m a class-one brain.

At school, Mrs. Brickman sees it differently.

“Nic, I see you’ve neglected the assignment again.”

“I told my mom, but she didn’t have time to drive me around.”

“This is the third time this month.”

“I told her.”

“I’m going to have to send a note home.”

“Maybe that’ll help. I don’t know.”

When I get back that day from science club, Mom’s where she always is. In her souped-up home office. She’s got more wires in there than Barnum and Bailey. She spends most of her nights designing computer programs to measure how far away the stars are and what might be circulating around them. She’s a planet hunter. Which means she’s looking for a star that has a planet the same distance away from it as the earth is from the sun. She’s trying to prove that we are not the only life in the universe. That our world is way more complicated than we morons can imagine.

“What’s this?” she says when I come in and hand over the note.

“It’s from my teacher. She says you’re really letting the team down.”

“But . . .”

“Sign here and you can consider yourself formally warned.”

“Nicolas . . .”

Nicolas. Can you believe it? She named me after Nicolas Copernicus. You know, the guy who figured out that the earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around? Can’t decide if that’s pretty cool or the geekiest thing ever. I change my mind a couple of times a day. So I’m Nic. Without the k, which is a real pain sometimes. The popular kids call me Nicotine. Otherwise it’s fine. Short and sweet. The name. Not me. I’m pretty tall for a thirteen-year-old. I just wish I’d bulk up. I’d ask Mom for some muscles for my birthday, but I don’t think she can deliver. Not that kind of scientist.

Luckily she clicks off like a blinker at 9 pm.

“Is there anything I need to know about your education before you turn in?”

“I’m flunking math.”

“Very funny.”


“I love you.”

“Yeah, yeah.”


Mom likes to tell me she believes in the universe. She believes in its wonder. In its ability to confound us. Which is why she says she wants me to know everything. Why the leaves on the trees change colors. Why the sky is blue. How the wings of a bird make it fly.

Meet the Author

Nina Killham was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of an American Foreign Service officer, and lived overseas much of her childhood. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, which she fled her junior year to live in Paris and eat. One of her first writing stints was for the Washington Post Food Section where she wrote about local food personalities and tested endless recipes.

After writing about travel and lifestyle for national magazines, she went off to Los Angeles to gain fame and fortune as a screenwriter and ended up working as an assistant for Columbia Pictures where grown men fought like children over parking spaces and made their secretaries pick peanut M&M’s out of a mixed candy dish because well…they don’t like peanut M&Ms. She finally left the studio to write the screenplay that was going to make her famous and rich, ending up six months later as a secretary in an ear plug factory.

She is now married to an Australian who is a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics. They live in London, have two young children and like to bicker about the meaning of life. She is also the author of How to Cook a Tart, and Mounting Desire. Believe Me is her third novel.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Believe Me 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
chrisforman More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed Nina Killham¿s first two books. Her first book, HOW TO COOK A TART is a delightful send-up of our impressions of food, relationships and love with a cast of quirky characters and a hilarious plot with a bizarre ending. Her second book, MOUNTING DESIRE, is a hysterical send-up of romance novels and also contains a quirky cast. When I saw that her third was coming out, I pre-ordered it. Well, it finally arrived and I read it in a day and a half.

BELIEVE ME is a slight departure from her normal writing. Sure, some of the characters are quirky and sure, there is a lot of humor, but the story is more, oh, I hate to use these words, as they are so overworked, poignant and heartwarming. This is the story of a young boy and his mother, each searching for something to cling to and believe in.

The story is told from the perspective of Nic Delany, whose mother is a devout atheist and whose father is a professor of comparative religions. Nic has fallen in with group of Christians, not just any Christians, but evangelical Christians and he begins to think about religion. He also thinks about all of the things a typical thirteen-year old boy thinks about. Things like video games and sex. The author does an admirable job writing in the first person and even though it¿s been forty years since I was a thirteen-year old, I found it very credible.

Nina Killham made me laugh, she made me smile, she made me think, and she brought a few tears to my eyes. I recommend this book to anyone and have already passed it on to a friend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SuperMomNY More than 1 year ago
As a Christian, I was interested in this book the moment I read the description. When I got the book home, I could barely put it down. It is rare to find a book in which you feel as if you could actually reach into the pages and touch the characters, but it's something Killman achieves here. The portrayal of characters is so honest it nears stereotyping but never actually gets there. The subject alone is thought-provoking, something that is enhanced as the story is layered and grows. Amazing read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
While her husband the professor lives and works in Williamsburg as he has for the last two years, University of Maryland astrophysicist Lucy Delano raises their thirteen year old son Nicolaus Copernicus ¿Nic¿ Delano though dad sees him frequently. Lucy the atheist encourages Nic to ask questions on any topic as she insists none are stupid. However she has reconsidered her curiosity concept as lately Nic¿s interests veer towards two taboo topics: girls and religion; not that he asks mom much on either.

Nic finds suburban Christianity comforting when he ponders the free will of selecting a brand of crunchy peanut butter from eight choices while at the same time a kid his age in Pakistan has his house fall on his head. The Christians may not be able to answer his five whys except in some mystical mumbo jumbo (which is not that different than mom's naturist big bang theory), but Mrs. Porter bakes good cookies that provide comfort while mom buys cookies. Lucy is concerned about Nic not so much that he admires the long legs of his babysitter, but because his teen rebellion is heretical as he studies God forbid the bible. Mom knows she cannot excommunicate her son, but the bible in her mind was written by the first fantasists. However both reconsider their beliefs when illness strikes.

The key to this debate over whether there is a god is the low-keyed family approach to the question rather than the extremes pounding theories as scientific proof or gospel. Nic makes the tale from the onset starting with his simple peanut butter question and his continual search for the truth. Although the support cast is to religiously ¿correct¿, readers will appreciate Nic¿s quest especially why would God turn his back on an ailing child of his as his mom and dad would never do that to him.

Harriet Klausner