Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: “The Believers” by Zoe Heller

The Believers is a novel about political and religious ideals revolving around one screwed up family.  The parents, Audrey and Joel, are old school socialists who refuse to give up the fight.  When Joel has a stroke leaving him in a vegetative state, Audrey must deal with the secrets of his past.  Their three adult children are struggling for growth.  Rosa rebels against her family’s atheism by studying with a group of Hasidic Jews.  Karla, long time doormat for both her mother and her controlling husband, seeks to dig out from under their heels.  Lenny, a long time drug addict and slacker, works toward his recovery. 

While The Believers is a dark and slightly depressing book at times, the writing is beautiful and most of the characters are sympathetic.  (Audrey not so much.)  The political and religious themes interwoven throughout the novel are interesting and well researched.  However, I do think a reader needs to be in a certain type of mood for this book.  It is not a good time, fun read.  Rather, The Believers stimulates the intellect and makes you yearn for a hopeful ending for all of the deeply flawed characters. 

Overall, I give The Believers

Plot – 3 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 ½ bookmarks
Political & Religious Themes – 3 bookmarks
Literary Merit – 4 bookmarks
Entertainment Value – 1 ½ bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Margaret Atwood (Audrey), Jason Robards (Joel), Sara Rue (Karla), Jessica Biel (Rosa), Ethan Hawk (Lenny)

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