I've been moaning for a long time that I haven't been blown away by a book recently. Granted, my reading was curtailed dramatically. So I guess I shouldn't have expected the few ones I did manage to read to blow my mind. But nothing stuck.
And then, Petra suggested The Believers by Zoë Heller. I knew Ms. Heller from her What Was She Thinking?, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. However, The Believers was more than enjoyed. I adored it. So much.
The characters are all irritating. Unbelievably self-involved or self-hating or otherwise grating. I wanted nothing more than to sit Audrey, one of the main characters, and slap her. She's a mother of three adult children, a woman of strong socialist leaning but little engagement who has been astoundingly disappointed by life. But, does she really need to be so difficult all the time?
That said, I identified with her. Not in the sense that I saw myself in her but more in the way that I got, to some extent, where she was coming from. Which is why the novel is so good. The characters are awful, but you're intrigued, not in a voyeuristic way, but a humanistic one (almost sympathetic at times) in what they do and the choices they make.
However, beyond the individual human dramas, the novel is a nice exploration of the gap between the things a person says they believe and they way they actually act. And the process of losing your faith but sticking with it regardless.
This review really doesn't do justice to the book. Just go read it. Right now. No, faster.