Friday, July 31, 2015

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont
Published July 2015 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Netgalley copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
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.

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.

My Thoughts:
Up front, I've perhaps read one too many books about infidelity recently. So, while Among the Ten Thousand Things is absolutely a unique book, it was a hard one for me to read. Which seems wrong given other comments I've read about the book and given the many passages I highlighted. Among The Ten Thousand Things looks at the impact of infidelity on everyone in a family, in a way that feels honest...

The children:
"As furious as he was with his father, he was furious with her too, for reasons he couldn't explain yet but that had something to do with how her reaction was not enough. Though he didn't know what would be."
"Here was their son and they'd made him so angry. Jack, maybe mostly, but she had too. What would Simon say if she told him how she'd known already, known for months, and had done nothing. That she'd tried just to make it go away. Probably he'd say she was weak, and dumb."
The cheated:
""I keep thinking about how someone might say it's my fault. For not doing anything." And because she did know what it was like to lose sight behave badly, and she was afraid of bringing in the mud, the ugly, of what might be used against her if she pressed Jack, and if he tried really to defend himself."
""Are you hurt?" "Am I hurt? Um, hm...Would yes be too scary an answer?" Kay swished her hair, no. "Then yes. I was hurt. Yes, what your father did was very hurtful to me." Maybe it wasn't right to let Kay see her angry, letting her know that this was a thing to be angry about, but Deb, sorry, wasn't a saint and did, maybe, in bursts, want her daughter to be a little bit angry too. It hurt to see Kay, after everything, reach for that telephone, want Jack anyway, want to love him."
The cheater:
"That was it. Jack did not really, in the end, believe he'd done anything so wrong. With the girl he'd been careful to make no promises. He'd encouraged her to date. Deb would need time and patience to forgive him, but here, alone with his tools, he could feel he was forgiving himself already."
The book's structure is entirely unique. Not half way through the book, Pierpont does a fast forward from beyond this time in their lives, through each of the character's lives, then takes readers back to the point she had left them at previously. As I read it, I wondered where Pierpont was going with the book. And how was she going to keep readers' interest when she returns to the present when they already know what's going to happen? Somehow she makes it work. In fact, it was at this point that I came to care more for the characters and to hope for all of them to find peace with what has happened in their lives.


  1. The timeline on this sounds unusual but it sounds like it works. I like that we do see how all this ultimately affects the characters lives well into the future. I'll have to look for this.

    1. The characters are necessarily terribly sympathetic but it's always interesting to look at something you think is common and find there's another way to look at it.

  2. I've been hearing wonderful things about this book. I don't especially like to read books that deal with infidelity, but I find myself reading them from time to time. This does sound like an interesting book, structure wise, and character wise.

    1. It was interesting but I'm hoping not to chance upon another infidelity story for a while.