This book in a word? Bleak.
Yet, also highly relevant and reflective of our world at this precise moment of the pandemic.
Authors, read this if you want to see an example of an example of too much telling instead of showing. The opening chapters are devoted to world building and a how-did-we-get-here? explanation. When I began reading, I felt I was being schooled in economics, not diving into an established world. Once the rules are established, however, Shriver weaves threads of a family saga that reflect a very possible and dire future for the US, maybe even the world.
When I first began telling people about the book, I said, "Imagine if the economic and social collapse in Venezuela between 2010 and 2020 happened in the US. That’s the start of The Mandibles."
Readers, read this if you want to imagine how life in the US could look if we carry on living the way we do. I love dystopian novels, but often the worlds are unrecognizable. In The Mandibles, I could imagine the suffering my friends and family would experience if what Shriver predicts should come to pass. She actually foresaw the madness that would surround toilet paper if the end of the world were near.
Also, despite the title, it isn’t a future dystopia; it’s about the US's current society failing—and let's be honest, it's pretty dystopian already, even if its citizens won't admit it—it's about regular people relying on those in charge and trusting them to know what’s going on, counting on them to set out reliable, fair systems to govern our daily lives, and hoping those people are working for everyone’s benefit.
Anyone reading the political news in 2020 knows that theory is not the case.
What I want to tell readers about this book is that economics matters. Don’t let the government get away with trying to do sneaky things. Invest in the knowledge because it’s in your own interest to do so.
Despite having been away from my Dubai book club for nearly a year, I continue to read the books they choose. I originally joined this group because they selected books that I might not pick on my own. That was the whole reason I joined this book club in the first place: they had tastes and interests in books so wholly different from my own, and they brought me into the fold of newer books, more modern authors. (I was stuck in the classics, where I was happy, but not very fun to talk to at parties.)
Before the discussion of the book, the founder asked us via WhatsApp for topics and themes, and I’m afraid I may have overwhelmed her with the thoughts I had at that particular moment: how we become like our parents whether we want to or not, living your life in a way that makes others happy but not you (a kind of self-sacrifice), how simple objects can tear families apart, how poorly family members communicate with one another, how parental neglect can cause irreversible damage, how (not to) let go of grudges …
This is the story of Maeve and Danny as they repeat their parents’ mistakes without realizing they are doing so. Here are two people who are unable to move forward with their lives because of an object holding them back. It’s a lesson about how focusing too much on the past can prevent you from living in the present.
What I hope to remember about this book is that life is very short, and we should appreciate everyone we have around us at all times.
I read a lot and I hope to help authors with the craft of writing. I share good examples of difficult aspects of writing: point of view, narration, world building and more.
Occasionally I give editing tips and share insights from the world of publishing.
Posts on editing
Posts on publishing
Posts on books