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This Book Will Save Your Life

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In the title story, a Holocaust survivor taps into a theme of the collection when he describes the way people hold the history of previous generations inside them. ‘We carry it with us, not just in our grandmother’s silver,’ he says, ‘but in our bodies, the cells of our hearts.’” — Wall Street Journal Richard’s son, Ben, has been deeply affected by his father’s absence in his life. Discuss the ways in which their relationship evolves during Ben’s time in Malibu. The characters in this book are quirky and utterly hilarious. Set in LA, the people tend to be blunt, if not outright rude. Richard is such a likeable character, despite the fact it’s pretty clear he’s been behaving like a bit of an ass for going on ten years. But the important point is that we can see why. It makes sense, and he’s not behaving that way because he is an asshole, but because he’s afraid, and miserable and he doesn’t know what else to do. In some respects, Richard reminded me of my father. He wants to do well, but he just can’t quite figure out what it is that other people might need.

Early on in the novel, Richard describes his eating habits and himself as “Mr. Healthy”: “I eat cereal that the nutritionist makes for me; it tastes like wood chips. I drink Lactaid milk. I never break the rules.” From his neighbor’s intravenous vitamin infusions to the assortment of pies proffered as goodwill tokens, food and eating take on a peculiar glow in the novel. In what ways does Homes use food and eating—sustenance—as a metaphor?Homes, whose masterful handling of suburban dystopia merits her own adjective, may have just written her midcareer magnum opus with this portrait of a flawed Nixonian bent on some sort of emotional amnesty.”—Christopher Bollen, Interview Okay, do you ever get that feeling? That sense of… oh, I can’t find the right words, I can only describe it as a warm fuzzy. It’s this sense of childish hope, that people ARE good---and not good like someone letting you cut in line at the grocery store because you have 2 items to their 20 or someone following the correct etiquette of ‘merging into traffic’, but have you experienced true goodness? I have. I know I have. I’ve remembered coming home and being so excited to retell the story of something that renewed my faith in mankind. I remember grinning, not just smiling or smirking but full on ear-to-ear, pearly whites, make your face hurt, grinning. Despite the fact that really very little happens, Richard's story - and AM Homes's surreal tone - is overtly cinematic: Richard is reminiscent of Bill Murray's character in Broken Flowers (the lonely entrepreneur who discovers he fathered a child 18 years ago but has no idea even who the mother is). Overall, it is fantastical, anti-American, anti-consumerist, anti-individualist.

Homes’s keen ear for speech—surreal as her characters’ conversations often are—lends itself to varying degrees of self-aware misunderstanding, highlighting the complexity of language and the challenges . . . The impossibility of knowing another person completely is one of life’s painful truths, and [this] collection remind us of that—but [it] also shows that there are, at least, tools available to help us try.” — Vanity Fair As startling and riveting as her fiction . . . a lacerating memoir in which the formerly powerless child triumphs with the help of a mighty pen.”– San Francisco Chronicle Richard and Cynthia are both trying to reclaim their lives. In what ways do they help each other? How are their efforts similar? Who is more successful? I was thinking of good citizenship. I always used to win that one. By the way, I didn't get your name."They're not always helpful. This is a weird idea, but I think we should ask the guy at the house up the hill."

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