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The Kept Man

3.27  ·  Rating Details ·  559 Ratings  ·  130 Reviews
Now in paperback, from the author of the bestselling The Middlesteins: the novel that's "unabashedly emotional, refreshingly devoid of New York City cynicism, and tenderly funny?" (People).

Jarvis Miller's artist husband has been in a coma for six years. And so, Jarvis has spent these years suspended between hope and grief, paralyzed with longing for a life and a marriage t
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published December 27th 2007 by Riverhead Books
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(showing 1-30)
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Mar 13, 2008 Mo rated it liked it
Scenester NYC girl meets NYC artistboy, they fall in love and get married and then he falls in his studio while painting and ends up comatose in a long-term care facility. By the end of the book, I hate every single one of the characters, especially the comatose husband. They all manage to be precociously duplicitious in that contemporary, Mike-Nichols-Closer-ensemble-cast-of-fuck-ups-and-adulterers kind of way. And yet...I couldn't put it down. Any novel that makes me want to find out what happ ...more
Sep 10, 2008 Laura rated it did not like it
Beth K from said easily what I think: "I felt no connection to the main character. She seemed utterly unbelievable to me and without any substance. Also, I found it hard to believe that 3 men in a laundromat (also wondered about the lack of laundry facilities in their well-coifed buildings) were so eager to befriend this woman and welcome her into their circle." To that I would add: Attenberg cites Dr. Alex Haynes on "educating me on matters involving coma victims and their families." ...more
Jul 26, 2007 Samantha rated it liked it
This book is well written. It has an interesting premise and the character development is excellent. Why three stars then, because towards the end of the book the story takes a turn for the topical. The battle between the wife and the in laws feels forced, tacked on and unnecessary. I'm all for social commentary in fiction, but while the rest of the book is subtle and well crafted, the end hits the reader over the head with the author's "message". I hope that Attenberg's next book avoids the pit ...more
Feb 04, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: skeptics who think the title indicates chick lit, art fans, lonelyhearts
having read attenberg's short story collection, i had a feeling i would like this book. i'm surprised how much i liked it. it has a very different feel from "instant love" -- it's very mature for a first novel. you'll get caught up in it quick and then race to finish in order to spell out all the secrets. i eagerly await her next book.
Elevate Difference
Apr 28, 2009 Elevate Difference rated it really liked it
One thing I don't expect to find in a chick lit-type book* is a line like this: "The thing about fucking on coke is, afterward, there's no rolling over and going to bed." Oh. I'd never thought of that. In fact, much of this book elicits that response from me.

The premise of The Kept Man, when stripped of both clothing and flesh is, frankly, almost implausible: Jarvis Miller has been waiting for six years for her artist husband to either die or wake up from his coma. Ok, so that part isn't the mos
Mar 13, 2008 Amy rated it it was ok
Boy - there is not one likeable character in this book except possibly Missy who is a car service driver. The main character, Jarvis Miller, discovers her husband (who is in a coma and on life support) was tramping around during their marriage. She develops a relationship with a group of hipsters guys and they all hang out at a laundry mat, snorting lines of coke and getting blow jobs. The best part of this book was a very accurate portrayal of gentrification in Brooklyn. She has one line where ...more
Dec 29, 2012 Karen rated it liked it
While not as fantastic as The Middlesteins, which led me to this (Did I mention you MUST READ The Middlesteins?) The Kept Man has some great qualities as well. It is about a beautiful Brooklynite wife and the aftermath of her dashing artist husband's coma (we enter in year six). The 'Kept Men' in question are three men she meets in a laundromat when she decides to venture back out into the world. Although I didn't think it was very believable that these three men adopt this woman into their grou ...more
Aug 09, 2016 Rachelle rated it really liked it
This book held my interest and I thought the writing was beautiful. It made me think of how I would react if my loved one was in a coma, and I think there's a lesson for people who tend to judge other people for making certain decisions without having lived in their situation. At first I didn't like the main character very much, I found her to be needy and pathetic, and she could only find her identity through others, but I guess that was the point, because we watch her grow and become more inde ...more
April Hochstrasser
Jun 13, 2011 April Hochstrasser rated it liked it
The writing was lovely, but it did not really go anywhere. Overdone with the descriptions and underdone with the plot. The ending was too convenient to believe, the artist husband has been in a coma for six years and Jarvis, the wife, plans to pull the plug. However, her in-laws protest big time over her decision. But then, as she visits him one last time, he just dies. After six years? Come on now. The basic plot of having a husband in a coma, and the half-widowhood and waiting was portrayed we ...more
Apr 02, 2008 Keris rated it really liked it
Reviewed by Sarah Hague

How would you react if your loved one had a stupid domestic accident and ended up in a coma? Would you pull the plug or hold onto the hope that s/he would wake up? How long would you hold onto that hope? A few weeks? Few months? A year?

Jarvis Miller has been waiting for her beloved husband Martin, an artist, to wake up for six years. For six years she herself has been living in a limbo-land of visiting him, waiting, loving, and

To read the rest of this review (and more!), p
Steve Turtell
Jan 08, 2013 Steve Turtell rated it really liked it
After this novel, as far as I'm concerned, Attenberg owns Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Wonderful characters and scene setting and a terrific story.
Mar 07, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: wendy-books
Gaaah, Goodreads ate my review!! Take two...

Jarvis Miller has been a "half-widow" for six years. Her husband, rising art star Martin Miller, falls off a ladder and hits his head on a paint can, resulting in a six year coma. Paying for his bills and her existence by selling his paintings piecemeal, Jarvis finally pushes her way out of her closed-off existence and tries interacting with the world again.

Much is made of the "Kept Man Club," a group of three stay-at-home husbands of rich wives that J
Shira and Ari Evergreen
Apr 03, 2010 Shira and Ari Evergreen added it
Recommends it for: new yorkers, hipsters, artists, and people who are interested in them
I picked this up after seeing it on the shelf while looking for Margaret Atwood's books. It was well worth reading. The author is a friend of Neal Pollack, which makes me like her more. If it weren't for that I would be less warm - though the narrator complains about gentrification in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and though she claims she is not a hipster, I can't help but feel that both she and the author who wrote her are part of the community they are complaining about. My skepticism aside (doubtl ...more
May 28, 2009 mark rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People.
"The Kept Man" is a story about a young woman lost in a relationship to a famous (well paid) painter-of-people who falls off his ladder and becomes comatose. The young woman, Jarvis Miller, has lots of money from the sale of the artwork, but no friends or life. She is isolated in New York with her only companionship her husband's agent, Alice, and sidekick, Davis - neither of whom she much likes. When her washing machine breaks, she goes to the neighborhood laundromat and meets three married men ...more
Judy Mann
Dec 31, 2013 Judy Mann rated it it was ok
I mean really.... So her husband who was an artist- goes into a coma- for 6 years, leaving her oh so alone and pitiful.Now the funny thing is her comatose husband becomes her comatose cash cow. That's the truth, that's the story.
I believe it was in the first 20 pages when Jarvis (the lonely half widow) casually tells us that whenever she runs short of cash - she gets together with his agent- and-just for the hellof it- they sell 20 of his paintings at 50,000 bucks each. So there's me doing the m
I have to admit that I had never heard of Jami Attenberg until this year's Tournament of Books. Maybe I should say that I did not consciously remember her. Since I ordered fiction for my library for decades, I must of read reviews of her work.

I so loved her review of Eleanor & Park for the Tournament that I decided to pick up one of her books. The storyline for The Kept Man grabbed my attention.

I have never read a book quite like this novel. Jarvis Miller has been waiting six years for her h
melanie (lit*chick)
Feb 21, 2008 melanie (lit*chick) rated it liked it
I loved the writing. The author has a way of getting to the heart of a situation with both eloquence and efficiency.

I liked the story. Jarvis is a half-widow, her artist husband has been in a coma for 6 years. She leads a very sheltered life having withdrawn into her loft, only leaving to visit her husband and interacting only two other people (the art dealer, and the husband's best friend).
After her dryer breaks, she is forced to enter the outside world and go to the laundromat. There she meets
May 26, 2010 Sarah rated it it was ok
Jarvis Millers husband was an up and coming artist. He has a brain aneurysm and falls into a deep coma. For 6 years Jarvis sells off his paintings to pay for medical bills, rent etc. She sees him every week, trying to find hope. After 6 years she finally admits she wishes he would just die.
One day she meets three men, "the Kept Man" club. their high power wives wear the pants and pay the bills in the family and they stay at home. tehy meet ocne a week and talk, gossip, or have illicit sex in the
May 16, 2009 liz rated it liked it
Some books set in New York City really frustrate me. It's like the authors think that the simple fact of the story being set in NYC makes it fascinating. I'm sorry, but here's a news flash: The city of New York is not a substitute for having a PLOT.


"Our heroine" is a former party girl who found reformation in her marriage to an artist, who's been in a coma for the past six years. Most of the book is her being self-indulgent and lusting after the minor attentions of other people while simultan
Feb 03, 2008 Victoria rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Attenberg is a promising writer. I read this book because it was one of my book club's selections. My greatest struggle in the book was caring for the main character, Jarvis. I kept trying to understand her and have compassion for her, but I ended up being frustrated with her most of the time. I did think it was an interesting exploration of the issue of what to do when someone is in a coma; how lives become suspended; how grief goes on and changes; how judged some one can be for their choices a ...more
Aug 02, 2008 Gabrielle rated it it was amazing
Here's my review for People magazine, issue 12/17/07:

Jarvis Miller has been languishing ever since her successful artist husband, Martin, went into a coma six years ago. Before the accident (aneurysm, ladder, can of paint), life had been good. Marriage to the charismatic painter had transformed the Manhattan party girl into a happily sedate, devoted Brooklyn wife. Now she spends her days clinging to memories, visiting Martin and contending with his rapacious art dealer and letch of a best friend
Sep 17, 2009 Cindy rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 24, 2012 Alesha rated it it was ok
The story was slow in spots, but gripping enough to keep one reading. The protagonist, Jarvis,is a self-proclaimed "half widow" who has been devoted to her comatose husband, an artist named Martin, for six long years. Jarvis who can barely bring herself to leave her home, suddenly has something to look to forward to, laundry day, as she meets three unlikely friends, Tony, Scotty, and Mal in a nearby laundry mat.

Each man is married and "kept" by their successful, affluent wives. Jarvis finds for
May 25, 2014 Dennis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book a lot, almost gave it 5 stars.
I am surprised to see so many mixed reviews on here. While I was reading it I felt that I was reading something special. Too bad it didn't connect with a lot of people. It sure did connect with me.

The characters felt real (which I always prefer to "likeable") and Jarvis's emotions and thoughts felt like the thoughts of a complex and sensitive person.
Is is one of those books that just feel real and deep and some things just felt so honest and profou
i liked this. i liked this quite a bit, actually. there's a specific part of me that really responds to literary fiction, the kind of stuff that really gets inside a character's brain and i get to find out how they think - of themselves, of others, in crisis, in elation. attenberg is damn good at creating a very real image of jarvis, and despite the fact that she's a selfish entitled white woman, i found her portrait appealing, and strangely likable. it's interesting that the so-called kept man ...more
Mar 04, 2008 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Awesome book....About letting go and moving on. Jarvis, the main character, is a young woman who's artist husband has been in a coma for 6 years. She loves him obsessively, and even visits him just to sleep next to him.
She accidentally makes her first friends in 6 years when her washing machine breaks down and she has to go to a laundromat. She meets 3 men who are in the "Kept Man Club"--they have breadwinner wives. She also is dealing with her husband's best friend and his dealer who want her
Mar 24, 2012 Angela rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 18, 2008 Jim rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Williamburgians
Shelves: legion-of-vermin
A woman comes home from a walk to find her artist husband in a coma after falling off a ladder. It’s been several years since the accident, but as her husband’s agent pushes her to assist in putting together a retrospective of his work, more details come to light about her husband’s life -- a life she knew nothing about. It’s a pretty remarkable book because the protagonist’s situation – or rather her husband’s – never changes, yet there’s a great deal of tension and conflict. The novel is set i ...more
Oct 05, 2012 Cflack rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brooklyn hipster pergatory. "The Kept Man", despite the overly annoying descriptions of the gentrification of Brooklyn, was a worthwhile journey. Although some of them were not particularly likable, I enjoyed reading about the menagerie of characters in the story from Jarvis, the protagonist, to Tony the frustrated musician, to Mira the adorable daughter of Jarvis' driver. Even though you may not approve of their behavior or agree with their decisions, Attenberg‘s characters are very well writte ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Paula rated it liked it
This debut novel of Jami Attenberg is the story of Jarvis, whose artist husband has been in a coma for six years. The setting is Williamsburg Brooklyn where she meets three "kept men" -- appealing, creative types, all supported by their wives -- in a laundromat. This encounter is catalyst for her to move forward in life. In the process she develops relationships with each of the men, discovers past betrayals, and faces herself and her future. The novel is also about her involvement in the art wo ...more
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I'm the author of Instant Love, The Kept Man, The Melting Season, The Middlesteins, and Saint Mazie. My sixth book, All Grown Up, comes out March 2017. I blog at, and you can find me on twitter @jamiattenberg. I'm originally from the Chicago area, but I happily divide my time between Brooklyn and New Orleans.
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