Among The Ten Thousand Things
Release Date: 07/07/2015
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.
*ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review *
Among The Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont is about a marriage in trouble and a family in crisis. It’s almost a fly on the wall type story at the start of the book, drawing readers in as the trouble in Jack and Deb’s marriage is brought to the attention of their two children, Kay and Simon. Each member of the family is affected by the box Deb gets in the mail and young Kay opens and reads, and throughout the first part of the four part book, it is obvious just how deeply the contents of the box and Jack’s extramarital affair effects each of one of the four characters.
For the first part of the story, almost halfway into the book, I was deeply enthralled with the author’s words and writing style, and the story being told captivated me. I wanted to know what made these people tick, what made them do the things they do, choose the things they choose. It’s a fascinating look into the human psyche, and about the strength it takes to stand when the ground is crumbling beneath your feet, and how differently people in the same family can react when there is a break in the foundation.
That all said, I have to be honest. The second half of this book didn’t hold my attention the same way the first half did. It was still well-written, don’t get me wrong, but the actual structuring and execution of the second half of the story, not to mention the intrigue of the characters and their internal monologues, just didn’t hold the same weight that they did in the first half of the book. I was a little disappointed with that, and it’s what kept this book from being a four and a half to five star read for me.
I did enjoy reading Among the Ten Thousand Things, despite the problems I had with the second half of the book, and I do feel it’s an overall good read. I just wish the second half of the story had lived up to the enjoyment I had in the first half, but there were gems of things–characterizations, plot and scene elements–sprinkled throughout the book that I liked a lot, and all of them kept me up reading late into the night. Which I guess made this an overall confusing, fascinating, intriguing, and enjoyable read.