The Believers

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When radical New York lawyer Joel Litvinoff is felled by a stroke, his wife, Audrey, uncovers a secret that forces her to reexamine everything she thought she knew about their forty-year marriage. Joel’s children will soon have to come to terms with this discovery themselves, but for the meantime, they are struggling with their own dilemmas and doubts.

Rosa, a disillusioned revolutionary, has found herself drawn into the world of Orthodox Judaism and is now being pressed to make...

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The Believers

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Overview

When radical New York lawyer Joel Litvinoff is felled by a stroke, his wife, Audrey, uncovers a secret that forces her to reexamine everything she thought she knew about their forty-year marriage. Joel’s children will soon have to come to terms with this discovery themselves, but for the meantime, they are struggling with their own dilemmas and doubts.

Rosa, a disillusioned revolutionary, has found herself drawn into the world of Orthodox Judaism and is now being pressed to make a commitment to that religion. Karla, a devoted social worker hoping to adopt a child with her husband, is falling in love with the owner of a newspaper stand outside her office. Ne’er-do-well Lenny is living at home, approaching another relapse into heroin addiction.

In the course of battling their own demons—and one another—the Litvinoff clan is called upon to examine long-held articles of faith that have formed the basis of their lives together and their identities as individuals. In the end, all the family members will have to answer their own questions and decide what—if anything—they still believe in.

Hailed by the Sunday Times (London) as "one of the outstanding novels of the year," The Believers explores big ideas with a light touch, delivering a tragic, comic family story as unsparing as it is filled with compassion.

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
…if you need to like the characters to enjoy a novel, skip right on to something more heartwarming because Heller is the master of unpleasant people. It's a testament to her respect for the full spectrum of human nature that her fiercely drawn characters endure satiric exposure that would burn weaker ones to a crisp…Somewhere between the novels of Allegra Goodman and Claire Messud, The Believers charts out a terrain all its own. If you haven't read Heller yet, prepare to be converted.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Ms. Heller…is an extraordinarily entertaining writer, and this novel showcases her copious gifts, including a scathing, Waugh-like wit; an unerring ear for the absurdities of contemporary speech; and a native-born Brit's radar for class and status distinctions.
—The New York Times
Jill Abramson
As a meditation on radicalism and its impact on families, this is no American Pastoral, and the Litvinoffs are no tribe of Levov. But their struggles to find their beliefs—in themselves, in their ill father, in politics and religion—are absorbing. And the effort of the family to hold together as Joel, its centripetal force, ebbs away, keeps the novel moving along briskly. It's funny and sad at the same time…a compelling tale of familial self-discovery.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly

Heller (What Was She Thinking?; Notes on a Scandal) puts to pointed use her acute observations of human nature in her third novel, a satire of 1960s idealism soured in the early 21st century. Audrey and Joel Litvinoff have attempted to pass on to their children their lefty passions-despite Audrey's decidedly bourgeois attitude and attorney Joel's self-satisfied heroism, including the defense of a suspected terrorist in 2002 New York City. When Joel has a stroke and falls into a coma, Audrey grows increasingly nasty as his secrets surface. The children, meanwhile, wander off on their own adventures: Rosa's inherited principles are beleaguered by the unpleasant realities of her work with troubled adolescents; Karla, her self-image crushed by Audrey, has settled into an uncomfortable marriage and the accompanying pressure to have children; and adopted Lenny, the best metaphor for the family's troubles, dawdles along as a drug addict and master manipulator. Though some may be initially put off by the characters' coldness-the Litvinoffs are a severely screwed-up crew-readers with a certain mindset will have a blast watching things get worse. (Mar.)

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

Heller (What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal) returns with an engrossing story of a severely dysfunctional New York family struggling to find its place in a quickly changing world. Joel Litvinoff, a famous civil rights lawyer, and his acerbic wife, Audrey, have spent their many years together as political protesters, raising their children with the same radical social consciousness. But when Joel suffers a stroke, the family, never a peaceful unit to begin with, loses what little cohesion it had. Eldest daughter Rosa, who had always mirrored her parents' views, decides to embrace Orthodox Judaism. Her meek and unattractive sister, Karla, a social worker married to a critical, arrogant union man, has an affair. Adopted son Lenny, an addict and ne'er-do-well, decides to sober up and get a job. Audrey remains in contention with all of them, angry that Rosa would stoop to religion, remorselessly picking on Karla's weight, and denigrating Lenny's efforts to remake his life apart from her. Heller writes with insight and honesty about the pain involved in testing one's beliefs and the possibility of growth in the process. Recommended for all fiction collections.
—Joy Humphrey

Kirkus Reviews
This sociopolitical comedy of manners concerning a radical lawyer in a coma is beyond the novelist's satiric command. The main problem with the latest from the British Heller (What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, 2003, etc.) is that it lacks focus. It could have focused on Joel Litvinoff, a famous activist attorney described by those who despise him as a "rent-a-radical with a long history of un-Americanism," but he's unconscious in his hospital bed for the bulk of the book. It wants to focus on his wife Audrey, like the novelist a British-born transplant to New York, whom the older Joel seduces in London when she is 18 and who remains married to him for 40 years. The problem is that Audrey is the least compelling character, with little explanation as to how she has become such a doctrinaire radical harridan (much more rigid than her husband), a "champagne socialist" hypocrite and unloving mother to her two daughters. Maybe Karla and Rosa, the daughters estranged from each other, could have provided the focus. The former is a heavy, good-hearted woman who must choose between her loveless marriage and an improbable affair. The latter is more attractive and resents the superficiality of her beauty; she is an extremist in everything she does, having returned from four years in Cuba to embrace, or at least investigate, the Judaism her parents long ago rejected (and which runs counter to her own feminism). Unfortunately, their stories only connect at the bedside of their comatose father, a center that cannot hold. Adopted son Lenny, from an even more radical family, mainly provides comic relief as his mother's marijuana supplier, until he cleans up. What promises to propel the narrativeis Joel's deep secret, revealed while he is unconscious, but even that seems on the periphery, before its unlikely resolution provides something of a climax. Tom Wolfe might once have had vicious fun with such material, but this novel lacks the edge to make it sharper than soap opera. Agent: Amanda Urban/ICM
Joseph O'Neill
“A moving, deeply intelligent look at intellectual loyalties-to ideology, religion, family-and the humans attached to them. This is a wonderful novel.”
Richard Price
“A beautiful, oftentimes hilarious, razor-precise portrait of a family, a city, and an examination of the eternal and universal urge to embrace something, anything, greater than ourselves.”
Anne Enright
“Tough, wise and funny. . . . A sustaining, intelligent novel about how the big questions affect and change all our small lives.”
Lionel Shriver
“Profoundly satisfying. . . . Heller injects that difficult-to-pinpoint something-or-other that elevates soap opera to art. . . . The Believers pulses with . . . something deep and lasting and larger than mere story.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
Zoë Heller's much-lauded 2004 novel, What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal was a tour-de-force depiction of a family's unraveling. Heller's triumph in that book was to delve so deeply into the heads of the two main characters -- one of whom had been involved in an affair with her teenage student -- that it was impossible to feel entirely unsympathetic about their egregiously selfish actions. The Believers is a similarly careful portrait of a family in trouble. But this time, Heller has multiplied her perspective to focus on a cast of characters, shifted the drama to America, and invoked a whole new set of questions about the way families go awry.

The novel opens in London in 1962, where a mousy young woman, Audrey, is swept off her feet by a visiting American lawyer, Joel Litvinoff, at an otherwise dull party. Joel insists on accompanying Audrey to visit her parents the next day, squeezing in a date before he must return to the States. Having accelerated the get-to-know-you phase of their relationship, Joel wastes no more time and proposes that Audrey marry him. She accepts, and the two begin a life together in New York. The novel skips ahead 40 years and resumes in 2002, in Greenwich Village, where Audrey and Joel inhabit a ramshackle townhouse, with a revolving door for their friends and family. Now a hotshot civil rights lawyer, Joel is preparing to defend an Arab American who has visited an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and is accused of terrorism. Joel suffers a stroke the morning of the trial and abruptly bows out of the novel. As he lies in the hospital, his daughters and son assemble, bringing with them the full array of family hang-ups and hardships.

Karla, his perpetually overweight elder daughter, works as a hospital social worker but is unable to have a frank conversation with either her husband or mother. Karla's husband, Mike, is a bully: upon their discovery of Karla's inability to conceive, he decides that they will adopt a child, ignoring his wife's obvious reservations about becoming a mother.

Rosa, the younger daughter, has recently returned from an extended period of travel in Cuba, where her revolutionary activities blended with love affairs, neither leaving her with much to show for her time abroad. She has taken a job at an afterschool program for teenage girls in Harlem but seems to hold more contempt than care for her charges. The only thing that brightens her predominantly lackluster life is her newfound interest in Orthodox Judaism.

Lennie, the Litvinoffs' adopted son, is perhaps the most troubled and directionless of all the children. Although in his 30s, he is unable to complete even a paint job for his mother's friend. He dabbles in drugs, then dangerously experiments, and seems to have no sense of his own possibility. Audrey indulges and even ignores his failures, allowing him to perpetuate his self-abuse. While she doles out $20 bills to her son, she is equally generous in distributing scorn and derision to her daughters, making fun of Rosa's religion and openly criticizing Karla for her weight.

The sudden stress of Joel's stroke heightens these tensions, which are brought to a fever pitch by the emergence of Berenice Mason, Joel's longtime mistress, with whom he has fathered a child, now five years old. If there was one belief to which Audrey, the most cynical and disillusioned of all the characters, adhered, it was the goodness of Joel -- the man to whom she was devoted for 40 years. The appearance of Berenice shakes the ground beneath her feet, shattering the only faith she has had.

Despite all this discontent, The Believers is compulsively readable. One turns the pages not so much to learn what happens next, but to learn how the characters cope with their missteps, how they navigate the web of obligations, duties, and resentments in which they are caught. The frequent reversals in point of view prevent Heller from developing exceedingly intimate portrayals of her characters of the type that made Notes on a Scandal so extraordinary, but her alternation constructs a rounded, general vision of distress.

The recurring shift in perspective also augments the sense that Heller is juggling several different contemporary tropes. The Believers reminded me of Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children, which dealt with privileged, overeducated, and underemployed young New Yorkers coming to terms with the post-9/11 world; at other times it recalled Allegra Goodman's Kaaterskill Falls, a book about Orthodox Jewish life in upstate New York (Rosa makes several pilgrimages to this region) and the push and pull of religious and secular forces. But if Heller has not confined herself to one portrait of misery -- and instead argues for the pervasiveness of the malady -- why should she constrain herself to one approach to her theme?

Paradoxically, this somber novel maintains a lively clip, losing its entertaining hold on us only occasionally, when the multiple viewpoints work to obscure the motives of individual characters. Few contemporary writers have Heller's ability to weave moments of lyricism into the everyday lives of her characters, and these moments keep her focus sharp. If the characters in The Believers all suffer some sort of crisis of faith, the novel itself leaves no doubt as to Heller's talents. --Chloë Schama

Chloë Schama's writing has appeared in the New York Sun and other publications.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061430206
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/3/2009
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Zoë Heller

Zoë Heller is the author of Everything You Know and What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and made into an acclaimed film starring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench. Heller lives in New York.

Biography

Although Zoe Heller made her initial splash with a series of addictively entertaining "girl about town" columns for Britain's Telegraph and Sunday Times, she has made the transition to literary fiction with a degree of success that can only be called extraordinary.

London-born and Oxford-educated, Heller acquired her M.A. from Columbia University in 1988. After graduate school, she returned to England, where she worked briefly in publishing, then as a journalist, book reviewer, and feature writer for various mainstream British newspapers. In the 1990s, she moved to New York and began chronicling her experiences as a single woman in the Big Apple. Her wry, witty, and outrageously confessional dispatches turned her into a household name in Britain and inspired a wave of Bridget Jones-style journalism that has never matched Heller's signature brio and artistic flair.

Despite the popularity of her columns, Heller began to feel confined by the kind of writing that had made her reputation. In 2000, she plunged into the choppy seas of literary fiction with a darkly comic novel entitled Everything You Know. Although it was savaged by the British press (a sour grapes-induced snubbing and drubbing Heller admits still stings), the book received enthusiastic reviews in the U.S. Writing in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani called it ""A sparkling first novel...As affecting as it is amusing," and the Los Angeles Times called it "... a shrewdly funny portrayal of a first-class curmudgeon."

There was nothing mixed about the reception for Heller's sophomore effort. Released in 2003, Notes on a Scandal (incongruously entitled in the U.S. What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal), was an unqualified success. The story of an obsessive affair between a teacher and her underage student, the novel unfolds in the form of a manuscript written by the teacher's "friend," an embittered older colleague with a few obsessions of her own. The book was shortlisted for Britain's most prestigious literary award, the Man Booker Prize, and went on to become an acclaimed, award-winning film starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett.

Following the success of Notes on a Scandal, Heller gave up her award-winning column, admitting that she was somewhat embarrassed by its egregiously autobiographical content. (In 2005, she told the Independent, "[T]he sound of the barrel being scraped became too resounding.") And while devoted fans still miss her wry, sly, self-deprecating articles, there is no question the literary world has gained a formidable talent. In the words of the American writer Edmund White, "Heller joins the front ranks of British novelists, right up there with Amis and McEwan." Lofty praise for a former Bridget Jones!

Good To Know

  • On her right shoulder, Heller sports a faded tattoo of a small, green tortoise. "I was 17," she explained in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. "On the Finchley Road. And I was with some boys who were getting naked women, the ace of spades and so on. I wasn't going to get a naked lady and it happened at the time that my favourite animal was a tortoise."

  • Heller's father, Lukas Heller, wrote Hollywood screenplays (including The Dirty Dozen and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), and her mother was involved in politics, including the Save London Transport campaign.

    Some fascinating outtakes from our interview with Zoë Heller:

  • "My very first job was as a milkman's assistant on an electric milk float in London. (This was in the days when British homeowners got their milk delivered to their front doorsteps.) I was 14 at the time. It was an okay job, but the smell of stale milk tended to linger horribly on my clothes."

  • "I wish I could have been a jazz singer."

  • "I have two daughters. One is named Frankie Ray (Frankie after the 12-year-old protagonist of The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers; Ray for Ray Charles) The younger one is named Lula Nelson (Lula because we liked it -- and oddly enough it turns out to be the name that Carson McCuller's was given at birth; Nelson for Willie Nelson)."

  • "I am pathetically without hobbies. I like lying in a hammock with a gin and tonic and a book."

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      1. Also Known As:
        Zoë Kate Hinde Heller (full name)
      2. Hometown:
        New York, New York
      1. Date of Birth:
        July 7, 1965
      2. Place of Birth:
        London, England
      1. Education:
        B.A., St. Anne's College, Oxford, 1987; M.A., Columbia University 1988

    Read an Excerpt


    The Believers

    A Novel


    By Zoe Heller
    HarperCollins
    Copyright © 2009

    Zoe Heller
    All right reserved.



    ISBN: 978-0-06-143020-6



    Chapter One London, 1962

    At a party in a bedsit just off Gower Street, a young woman stood alone at the window, her elbows pinned to her sides in an attempt to hide the dark flowers of perspiration blossoming at the armholes of her dress. The forecast had been for a break in the weeklong heat wave, but all day the promised rain had held off. Now, the soupy air was crackling with immanent brightness and pigeons had begun to huddle peevishly on window ledges. Silhouetted against the heavy, violet sky, the Bloomsbury rooftops had the unreal, one-dimensional look of pasted-on figures in a collage.

    The woman turned to survey the room, wearing the braced, defiant expression of someone trying not to feel her solitude as a disadvantage. Most of the people here were students, and aside from the man who had brought her, she knew no one. Two men had separately approached her since she had been standing at the window, but fearful of being patronized, she had sent them both away. It was not a bad thing, she told herself, to remain composed on the sidelines while others grew careless and loud. Her aloofness, she fancied, made her intriguing.

    For some time now, she had been observing a tall man across the room. He looked older than the other people at the party. (Casting about in the exotic territory of old age, she had placed him in his early thirties.) He had a habit of massaging his own arms, as if discreetly assessing their muscularity. And from time to time, when someone else was talking, he raised one leg and swung his arm back in an extravagant mime of throwing a ball. He was either very charming or very irritating: she had not yet decided.

    "He's an American," a voice said. Audrey turned to see a blond woman smiling at her slyly. She was wearing a violently green dress and a lot of recklessly applied face powder that had left her nose and chin a queer orange color quite distinct from the rest of her complexion. "A lawyer," she said, gesturing across the room at the tall man, "His name's Joel Litvinoff."

    Audrey nodded warily. She had never cared for conspiratorial female conversation of this sort. Its assumption of shared preoccupations was usually unfounded in her experience, its intimacies almost always the trapdoor to some subterranean hostility. The woman leaned in close so that Audrey could feel the damp heat of her breath in her ear. The man was from New York, she said. He had come to London as part of a delegation, to brief the Labour Party on the American civil rights movement. "He's frightfully clever, apparently." She lowered her eyelids confidentially. "A Jew, you know."

    There was a silence. A small breeze came in through the gap in the window where it had been propped open with books. "Would you excuse me?" Audrey said.

    "Oh!" the woman murmured as she watched her walk away.

    Pressing her way through the crowd, Audrey wondered whether she had dealt with the situation correctly. There was a time when she would have lingered to hear what amusing or sinister characteristic the woman attributed to the man's Jewishness-what business acumen or frugality or neurosis or pushiness she assigned to his tribe-and then, when she had let the incriminating words be spoken, she would have gently informed the woman that she was Jewish herself. But she had tired of that party game. Embarrassing the prejudices of your countrymen was never quite as gratifying as you thought it would be; the countrymen somehow never embarrassed enough. It was safer, on the whole, to enjoy your moral victory in silence and leave the bastards guessing.

    Audrey halted now, at the sound of someone calling her name. Several yards to her left, a stout red-haired youth was standing between two taller men in an unwitting turret formation. This was Martin Sedge, her date for the evening. He was waving and beckoning, making little smoky swirls in the air with his cigarette: "Audrey! Come over here!"

    Audrey had met Martin three months before, at a conference of the Socialist Labour League in Red Lion Square. Despite being one year her junior, he was much more knowledgeable about political theory-much more experienced as an activist-than she was, and this inequality had given their friendship a rather pedagogical cast. They had been out together four times, always to the same grimy pub around the corner from where Audrey worked, and on each of these occasions their conversation had swiftly lapsed into tutorial mode, with Audrey sipping demurely at her shandy, or nibbling at a pickled egg, while Martin sank pints of beer and pontificated.

    She did not mind being talked at by Martin. She was keen to improve herself. (On the flyleaf of the diary she was keeping that year, she had inscribed Socrates' words, "I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.") There was a girlish, renunciatory streak in her that positively relished Martin's dullness. What better proof could there be of her serious-mindedness-her rejection of the trivial-than her willingness to spend the spring evenings in a saloon bar, absorbing a young man's dour thoughts on the Fourth International?

    Tonight, however, Martin seemed at pains to cast off his austere instructor's persona. In deference to the weather and to the festive nature of the occasion, he had forgone his pilled Shetland sweater in favor of a short-sleeved shirt that revealed his pink, ginger-glazed forearms. Earlier in the evening, when he had met Audrey at the Warren Street tube station, he had kissed her on the cheek-a gesture never hazarded before in the short history of their acquaintance.

    "Audrey!" he bellowed now, as she approached. "Meet my mates! Jack, Pete, this is Audrey."

    Audrey smiled and shook Jack and Pete's wet hands. Up close, the three men were a small anthology of body odors.

    "You out of drink?" Martin asked. "Give me your glass, and I'll get you another. It's bedlam in that kitchen."

    (Continues...)




    Excerpted from The Believers by Zoe Heller Copyright © 2009 by Zoe Heller . Excerpted by permission.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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    Reading Group Guide

    1. Did you find your opinions of the characters in The Believers changed as you read the book?

    2. Are there characters that you ended up feeling more positive or sympathetic towards than others?

    3. Choosing two characters, can you give examples of personality traits you find appealing and unappealing about each?

    4. Do you find that the book’s wit helps to make the family tensions more bearable, or do you find the humour uncomfortable?

    5. Do you find the men and the women in the book to be equally rounded characters?

    6. What influence does Joel have on the family after his stroke, when he is in a coma?

    7. Are there aspects of the book that you feel are unfairly critical of people’s political, moral or religious beliefs?

    8. Do you feel that the beliefs and self knowledge the characters end up with are more genuine than those they start out with?

    9. Discuss how you think the lives of the members of the Litvinoff family will continue during the months after the funeral. How closely will each of them stick to the decisions they have made?

    10. What are your feelings about Audrey’s eulogy at Joel’s funeral?

    11. What motivates Audrey’s apparent change of heart regarding Berenice?

    12. Do you consider the book to present belief in a negative or positive light?

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    See All Sort by: Showing 21 – 40 of 60 Customer Reviews
    • 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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      I Also Recommend:

      I'm a Believer

      I Believe that Zoe Heller has a wonderful tongue in cheek sense of humor.<BR/>I Believe her characters are well concieved and somewhat likeable.<BR/>I Believe some of the main players are hypocritical in their pursuit to be politically correct.<BR/>I Believe that the storyline, although a good read, is more or less one more story of a modern day dysfunctional family.

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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 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 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

      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 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

      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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      "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

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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 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 16, 2008

      I Also Recommend:

      This book is an interesting, if not confusing, read!

      I enjoyed this book as a whole. The premise was interesting, and full of promise. However, I found it hard to identify with any of the characters, and would have preferred to have heard more about Joel through additional flashbacks. The children were easier to understand, though I found the mother to be annoying. The book ended too soon, because I would have liked to have seen where the characters ended up. It seemed as if we were left hanging, in the middle of the plot. It was an challenging read, with a confusing plot line. The writing was good, and it left one with a lot of room for discussion at the end of the book. This is a prime book for book clubs or friends to discuss, with many areas for conversation including faith, religion, legacy of parents, and how much different your life would be if you knew the truth about everyone.

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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 14, 2008

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      The Believers is unlike anything I have ever read.

      This story is not your typical detective or romance novel. There are a variety of characters to take interest in rather than one or two main characters. The many characters make up an odd American family in which the parents are radical socialists and unpracticing Jews. The reader is slowly drawn into the family's drama and comes to know and care about the characters and where their lives will lead them. The story offers surprises, disappointments, and food for thought along the way.

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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 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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