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The Land of Steady Habits

The Land of Steady Habits

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by Ted Thompson

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"This assured, compassionate first novel channels the suburban angsty of Updike and Cheever...with pitch-perfect prose and endearingly melancholy characters."--Booklist (Starred Review)

Anders Hill, entering his early sixties and seemingly ensconced in the "land of steady habits"--a nickname for the affluent, morally strict hamlets of


"This assured, compassionate first novel channels the suburban angsty of Updike and Cheever...with pitch-perfect prose and endearingly melancholy characters."--Booklist (Starred Review)

Anders Hill, entering his early sixties and seemingly ensconced in the "land of steady habits"--a nickname for the affluent, morally strict hamlets of Connecticut that dot his commuter rail line--abandons his career and family for a new condo and a new life. Stripped of the comforts of his previous identity, Anders turns up at a holiday party full of his ex-wife's friends and is suprised to find that the very world he rejected may be one he needs.

Thus Anders embarks on a clumsy, hilarious, and heartbreaking journey to reconcile his past with his present. Like the early work of John Updike, Ted Thompson's first novel finely observes a man in deep conflict with his community. With compassion for its characters and fresh insight into the American tradition of the "suburban narrative," THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS introduces an auspicious talent.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Late-life divorce is the subject of Thompson’s acutely written first novel. Approaching retirement age, Anders Hill is recently divorced from his wife, Helene. They have two adult children, who don’t seem especially fond of their father, especially the troubled younger one, Preston, who has yet to find himself. But as lost as Preston is, he is still in much better condition than Charlie, the substance-abusing, preppy son of Helene’s best friends who inexplicably turns to Anders for support, this at a time when Anders is having difficulty supporting himself, both financially and spiritually. Things become even more complicated when Anders finds out that Helene is living in his old house with a new lover, Donny, a mutual friend from their college days. As a wickedly sharp framing device, Anders’s travails come to a head during the Christmas season. This novel is basically a series of confrontations, but Thompson is a master at dramatically pitting one character against another. The story takes place in Connecticut, and the author proves to be as keen an observer of this social scene as his literary forebears, Cheever and Updike. Anders, Helene, their children, lovers and friends, might not be the most likable group of characters you’ll come across, but the author humanizes them in a way that makes their problems relatable. (Mar.)
Maggie Shipstead
"With impeccable prose, dry wit, and uncommon wisdom, Ted Thompson brings to life one family's painful disappointments and powerful resilience. The Land of Steady Habits combines Austen's shrewd mastery of domestic economics with Updike's compassion for the melancholy commuter to make something elegant, fresh, and brilliant."
Charles D'Ambrosio
"In his beautiful and generously imagined debut, Ted Thompson will rightly draw comparisons to other chroniclers of suburban life -Updike, Cheever-but I think we need to dig deeper into the tradition-to John O'Hara-because The Land of Steady Habits is our Appointment in Samarra and Anders Hill is our Julian English. Whether it's a society built on coal or one collapsing under the weight of credit default swaps, both novels explore what ails America by looking into the wrecked hearts of those who seem to have everything and now must reckon the high cost of the good life. Over the course of a single holiday season, Thompson takes Anders on a tragicomic ride, through exile and redemption, until a new kind of hero emerges, human and fallible, a man who becomes more for having accepted less and finds greatness because he chooses decency. Fearless and tremendously moving , The Land of Steady Habits tells a story we need to hear and announces the arrival of a voice we should all welcome."
Sarah Vowell
"It would probably never occur to New England white people that they are an ethnicity, but this sharp and funny saga of a Connecticut family unraveling is a detailed natural history of upper crust suburbanites and how they live (and drink). The reader learns not to take good fortune and loved ones for granted--and also that a liquor store owner in Westport will never starve."
Darin Strauss
"Ted Thompson will be weighed against some famous Johns -- Updike and Cheever -- for the usual wrong reasons. (Suburbs, separation.) But the comparison is apt in all the ways that matter: because the prose is sumptuous, the characterizations economically brilliant, the themes still important and universal. Because this is a great book. And readers who sample its riches will be greedy to scoop up the entire treasure of it. And so, ladies and gentlemen, we may have found our generation's Rabbit, Run."
Charles Baxter
"A book that is funny, shrewd, and heartbreaking by turns, The Land of Steady Habits concerns the lost-and-found souls of Connecticut and Manhattan, and at every point this novel offers both pleasure and insight into its cast of characters. You don't expect a first novel to be as inward and worldly as this one is, and at the same time to be so readable. Ted Thompson's dialogue is so good, so unerring, that he must have perfect pitch. A wonderful debut."
From the Publisher
"Filled with heartache and humor, this assured, compassionate first novel channels the suburban angst of Updike and Cheever, updating the narrative of midlife dissatisfaction with a scathing dissection of America's imploding economy...with pitch-perfect prose and endearingly melancholy characters, Thompson offers up a heartbreaking vision of an ailing family and country." --STARRED Booklist
Kirkus Reviews
That particularly American novel, examining the soul-crushing consequences of suburban prosperity, is modernized here as a successful financier looks around his life and sees a wasteland. Southerner Anders Hill went to great lengths to avoid the upstanding conformity his father had planned for him, but at age 60, he's not sure what difference it's made. Sickened by the greed of Wall Street and his own personal culpability in all sorts of financial collateral damage, Anders embarks on a kind of slash-and-burn approach to his life: He opts for early retirement, asks his wife, Helene, for a divorce (kindly put on hold for a year while she recovers from a double mastectomy), stops paying the mortgage on their colonial and holes up in a condo he furnishes with Winslow Homer posters and decorative lobster traps. Anders' existential crisis, simmering for 20 years, is a rejection of everything he's built—the beautiful house in a tony Connecticut bedroom community (think Greenwich), two sons and a lovely wife—but now what? Meanwhile, thanks to Facebook, Helene has a boyfriend, Donny, who was Anders' college roommate and Helene's college boyfriend. An outcast among their friends, Anders has formed an unlikely friendship with Charlie, the rebellious teenage son of Mitchell and Sophie Ashby. After smoking PCP with Charlie at a holiday party (which sends Charlie to the hospital), Anders begins to fall apart in subtle but disturbing ways. Anders and Helene's son Preston is an adult version of Charlie. After a wasted youth following Phish, dealing drugs, and beginning and quitting various programs and colleges, he finally has a college degree but not enough sense to use it. The three stages of the Connecticut man—Charlie, Preston and Anders—in this land of steady habits, have the instinct to rebel but lack the imagination to live happily. Thompson's sharp-eyed debut is that kind of searing portrait of American wealth unraveling that is both dazzling and immeasurably sad.
Library Journal
As a rebellious teen, Anders Hill rejects his father's plans for his future and succeeds on his own. In doing so, he finds himself in the land of steady habits, commuting to a finance job in Manhattan from a bedroom community in Connecticut. Now in his 60s, Anders realizes that the underlying satisfaction of having achieved success is eroded by his certainty that this is not the life he is meant to lead. The idyllic world he has created for himself unravels in one horrific year when he quits his job, divorces his wife, abandons his children, and befriends a neighbor's son, who then commits suicide. Anders is at a new crossroads; is the life he gave up the one he was destined to live? VERDICT Thompson, a Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, crafts a story replete with characters searching for something other than what they have. Fans of John Updike will enjoy this book by a young, upcoming writer. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/13.]—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence

Product Details

Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Ted Thompson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, where he was awarded a Truman Capote Fellowship. His work has appeared in Tin House and Best New American Voices, among other publications. He was born in Connecticut and lives in Brooklyn with his wife.

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The Land of Steady Habits: A Novel 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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