Saturday, February 04, 2012

Zoë Heller: The Believers

Zoë Heller understands people exceedingly well. It's almost eerie how she can see the world from various points of view, with telling detail. In The Believers (2008), the plot revolves around the immediate family of Joel Litvinoff, a high-powered civil rights lawyer mostly at the point where things go awry: Audrey (his English wife), daughters Rosa and Karla, adopted son Lenny, and Joel's mother Hannah. There are others. The main backdrop is post-9/11 New York City, on the verge of the Iraq War.    

As in What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal (2003), Zoë Heller masterfully delves into her characters and milieu. Everything works in tandem as sentences become paragraphs, paragraphs become chapters and chapters become a novel. Heller can set the scene in a single sentence. Here's a married couple on an important day: "When Karla woke at six, Mike was already up and creeping about the room in his underpants." (p. 316). Here's another one: "Audrey looked around, wondering how long Jean was going to talk about nature." (p. 273). Another thing to note about Heller is her lexicon, a compelling mix of British and American English, slang and all. I find her a complete joy to read.

Today's Rune: Wholeness.   


Charles Gramlich said...

"Where things go awry." An important element of fiction!

jodi said...

Erik-Can't believe I missed this one. It seems right up my alley. Yes, crazy things happen when things go awry!!!