Published by Random House on July 7th 2015
Length: 18 hours and 12 minutes
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Coming of Age, Family Life
eARC provided by Copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
For fans of Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Lorrie Moore, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Among the Ten Thousand Things is a dazzling first novel, a portrait of an American family on the cusp of irrevocable change, and a startlingly original story of love and time lost.
Jack Shanley is a well-known New York artist, charming and vain, who doesn't mean to plunge his family into crisis. His wife, Deb, gladly left behind a difficult career as a dancer to raise the two children she adores. In the ensuing years, she has mostly avoided coming face-to-face with the weaknesses of the man she married. But then an anonymously sent package arrives in the mail: a cardboard box containing sheaves of printed emails chronicling Jack's secret life. The package is addressed to Deb, but it's delivered into the wrong hands: her children's.
With this vertiginous opening begins a debut that is by turns funny, wise, and indescribably moving. As the Shanleys spin apart into separate orbits, leaving New York in an attempt to regain their bearings, fifteen-year-old Simon feels the allure of adult freedoms for the first time, while eleven-year-old Kay wanders precariously into a grown-up world she can't possibly understand. Writing with extraordinary precision, humor, and beauty, Julia Pierpont has crafted a timeless, hugely enjoyable novel about the bonds of family life--their brittleness, and their resilience.
Among ten Thousand Things is a book about a modern family in crisis. It starts off really great but after section one my interest waned and I struggled to finish this book. With alternating POVs and a confusing timeline this book was a hard read.
Deb was given a package meant for her eyes only. It is from her husband’s mistress giving the sordid details of her affair with her husband Jack. Her children, Simon and Kay, read it first and they each have opinions on how Deb should react to this confession. While both the children are young when this happens it affects the people they become. Their relationship with Jack, the charming yet vain artist, is strained after the secret comes out. Deb must figure out a way to move on. The package alters all of their lives.
The Good: I went into this story with high hopes. I love family drama and the beginning of this book really intrigued me. The emails were really crass and included things Jack spelling out things he wanted to do to his mistress. Why she would want to send all the emails from her affair to Deb is beyond me. The fact that her children read it first was horrifying. Simon is only fifteen years old and Kay is eleven. You can just imagine how damning it would be for these kids to read their father’s adultery in such pornographic detail. Deb struggles with whether to forgive him, he is an artist after all, or to take this as a sign to move on.
The writing in this story is different. It is a bit like prose and very lyrical in it’s delivery. Alternating POVs gave me insight into the minds of Simon, Kay, Deb and Jack. I liked that we got how everyone reacts and what they were really thinking. Their actions make sense to them. They can’t help but feel the way they do. Simon shares a bit too much with his neighbor and hates his father. Kay struggles with trying to understand what all this means and uses choice phrases with her friends, making her seem perverted. Jack tries to brush it off, he really loves his wife and can’t help the way he is. Deb weighs her options. She loves her husband and this is not really a surprise. The fact that her children know now changes things for her.
The Bad: This story is out of order. Section 1 gives us the incident that changes their lives and then Section 2 gives us the ending. I was less enthusiastic about reading Sections 3 and 4 since I knew how this ended. Early reviewers have suggested reading this out of order so that Section 2 is read last. I got the information too late, though. Besides that confusion, I have to say that nothing really happens after Section 1 that makes this book remarkable in any respect. Once we get the situation, and their initial reactions, the characters lives are pretty boring. There are so many details thrown in that the story moved incredibly slow. As a result, I really struggled to finish this book. I can’t keep track of where the story is going when the writing is like this:
At a bookshop that sold electric fountains miniature Zen gardens and even a few books, mostly titles from small presses about local lighthouses and walking tours, but also some fiction in back, Deb told the kids to pick out some summer reading.
I know that this book may still appeal to some readers. The topic of adultery when children are in the marriage is relateable for a lot of people. The breakdown of this family was truly honest. I didn’t find myself in any of the characters. I didn’t like the lyrical writing despite the fact that these characters are really normal. I wanted something to happen to redeem the details and make sense of this. It just didn’t happen. So for me this book wasn’t all that enjoyable. Sorry.