Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Believers” as Want to Read:
The Believers
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Believers

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  3,507 ratings  ·  671 reviews
Zoë Heller, author of Notes on a Scandal and Everything You Know has written a comic, tragic tale about one family’s struggles with the consolations of faith and the trials of doubt.

When Joel Litvinoff is felled by a stroke, his wife, Audrey, uncovers a secret that forces her to re-examine her ideas about their forty-year marriage. Joel’s children will soon have to come t...more
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Believers, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Believers

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
M
I did not get this book AT ALL. Having read and enjoyed Notes on a Scandal (and if you can get past THAT premise you're good to go for just about anything) I was sure I would like her new one.
Well. For one thing, while she is an eloquent writer with a nice vocabulary, she seems to have fallen into this new wave writing style of 'how many details can I toss in to seem perceptive?' Yes theoretically I could write aobut my daily commute in my novel and tell you about how my metro card didn't go thr...more
Sanchia
Set in Heller’s adoptive US The Believers is a funny, highly original and adroit satire of New York’s liberal elite. The title, a wicked irony in itself, belies the books central characters, the Litvinoff tribe - a family of hard line antitheists who have rejected their Jewish heritage and proudly live by socialist values. The father Joel is a charismatic civil rights lawyer, his wife Audrey a raging pot smoking ultra-leftist. Their façade is shattered when Joel suffers a massive stroke and sudd...more
Veronica
Zoe Heller excels at misanthropy. It can be funny (Everything You Know) or cringe-making (Notes on a Scandal) but here it just seemed to go a little too far. I felt like shaking Heller and saying, "You know, there are some people in the world who are kind and generous!". Not in Heller's world there aren't. Notes on a Scandal created a wonderful uneasiness, because I had a sneaking sympathy with Barbara while still being creeped-out by her behaviour. Here, Audrey is so horrible that you cannot im...more
Beverly
Not as good as Notes on a Scandal. This is a readable story of a politically progressive New York Jewish family whose celebrity lawyer father suffers a stroke. As he lays in a coma, his family scurries around trying to come to terms with their own lives. Sloppily written (edited?). Heller thinks that Americans say things like "I dare say", "have it", and "try it on". One of the daughters moves into Orthodox Judaism; Heller also doesn't know that unmarried Orthodox women do not cover their heads....more
eb
Brilliant, mean, funny--but will I sound prissy if I complain that each and every American character speaks like a Brit? I don't get it. Where's the editor? Where's the kindly American friend who'll read a draft and say, "Zoe, I love this book, but Yanks don't say 'That's not been my impression,' we say, 'That wasn't my impression,' and we don't say 'Don't let's declare it a failure,' we say 'Let's not declare it a failure.'" It made me sad that this novel, which I loved so much, distracted me o...more
Amy
So, you bring this book on vacation. Your traveling companions notice you’re spending most every spare minute with it and ask what it’s about. “Oh, a family of radicals living in New York. The father’s a famous lawyer and the mother’s British. The kids are rebelling—one is converting to Orthodox Judaism and another’s a drug addict and the third is trying to adopt a kid.” You’re met with a puzzled look and no requests to borrow the book.

It’s hard to explain why this is a great read if you only t...more
Bonnie Brody
Zoe Heller can write. She is a master of acerbic wit, denigration, parody. sarcasm, and layered complexity. She writes with a sensibility that I can only compare to varying musical keys. Her story vacillates from the minor keys to the major, from melodic to dissonant, sometimes in the same paragraph.

This novel is about the Litvinoff family. There is Audrey, the mother and matriarch. She has an attitude like spoiled meat. She "was always congratulating herself on her audacious honesty, her willin...more
Corny
Zoe Heller weaves a wonderful tale of a dysfunctional family which loses its glue when its patriarch is felled by a stroke in the first chapter. The characters are believable and, for the most part, not very admirable. They struggle against each other, their surroundings, and finally against their dark sides. Audrey, the bereaved wife, with the mouth from Hell is counterintuitively a sympathetic character. Karla battles a weight problem, and Lenny a drug addiction while Rosa contemplates returni...more
Jennifer
Book club selection for December.

I really liked Heller's writing, and her portraits of the characters were so unsparing and insightful. Unfortunately, some of the actions and dialogue don't ring true. The plot becomes a bit mundane and predictable, and only the completely outrageous and rather unbelievable actions of the protagonist(anti-hero?)keep the reader interested. I really like some of the story lines, but I feel like it would have been more effective as a collection of short stories rel...more
Briana
I read this on the plane/in the airport yesterday in a few hours. It's a book full of characters who are either miserable or loathsome (or both), and it was fun to read in kind of a train wreck kind of way, but I can't really recommend it. I thought the satire of aging leftists in 9/11-era New York was overly broad, and was done much more effectively in The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud a few years ago. I really, really enjoyed Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller quite a bit, so this book was...more
Wendy Kobylarz-Chouvarda
It's well-written.

It flows well.

The characters are all people I'd like to throw under a bus. I've heard it said that it's not the job of an author to create characters you want to be best friends with. Okay, so maybe there are authors who like to explore themes and big ideas, and in doing so create a story with a purpose beyond storytelling. And maybe not all characters should be likable because it won't create any conflict and the story will be kind of flat and boring. However, there are enough...more
Kristin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sibyl
I found this novel highly readable. It was like eating decent quality chocolate. I wanted to go on and not stop till the story was done

There's a (very) sick father, an enjoyably monstrous mother, three 'problem' children and a few skeletons in cupboards. Overall we get a group portrait of the dilemmas of well-off progressive New York Jews in the early 21st century, as America lurches to the right.

And Heller's a good writer. The pace never slackens. There are some brilliant phrases and descriptio...more
Vicki
I read "Notes on a Scandal" and really liked it, so I was eager to read "The Believers", and enjoyed it very much. I wanted to slap most of the main characters -- they were totally selfish and clueless about the needs of others -- but they were also very real. Despite being very annoyed with these people, the writing was so wonderful that I wanted to just keep reading. This book would be great for discussion, I think. It has lots of meaty issues and characters with lots of flaws to talk about! K...more
Lauren
While this book was not as great as I'd hoped it would be, it reminds me that even disappointing novels are more engaging, vibrant and thought-provoking than bad TV. I didn't want to put it down. I felt the characters were a bit predictably static (and this wasn't part of some larger literary device), yet, they were all immediately familiar in an appealing way. I am a sucker for books that have something to do with leftist lawyers and their dysfunctional families (I loved reading Family Circle l...more
Diana
Wow--I couldn't put it down--every character in this novel about a New York city family is so fully drawn and believable. The matriarch of the family, Audry, who is outlandish and entertaining, could have been cartoonish, but Zoe Heller deftly gives us insights into her behavior that make us accept her as a character. No one in the book is particularly loveable or noble, but that is what makes it so interesting, and fun. This book exposes people in all of their hyprocrisies and weaknesses, for b...more
Alexis
A screwball, domestic family novel. Good writing, good characters but everyone was sort of screwed up. I actually would have liked this one more if it hadn't been written by Zoe Heller, as I was a huge fan of "Notes on a scandal" and felt this book just didn't measure up.
Patrick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sam Quixote
“The Believers”, Zoe Heller’s third novel, starts with the patriarch of the Litvinoff family, Joel, a successful American lefty solicitor, who has a stroke in court and goes into a coma. His wife Audrey is more or less the main character, an Englishwoman who moved to New York with Joel back in the 60s and has stayed ever since. Their children, Rosa, a strongly political woman recently converted to orthodox Judaism, Karla, a timid, overweight woman stuck in an unhappy marriage with a union organi...more
Kasa Cotugno
In a recent q & a following an interview with Zoe Heller, a woman who had already read this latest book complained that the characters were not likable, that she wouldn't want to have any of them for a friend. Unflappable, Heller rejoined that one shouldn't go looking for friends between the pages of books. Now that I've read the book, I have to disagree with the complainant. Yes, the mother and her two daughters at the center of this book have unattractive qualities, but that only makes the...more
Featherbooks
An unsentimental and compelling family drama about a political lawyer, possibly modeled after William Kunstler, who has a stroke and how his family reacts in various ways, particularly intensely by his distressed and furious wife, Audrey. I have friends who will say "but I didn't like the characters" to which the author replies in an interview in the October 1, 2008 issue of Time Out:
I read a review the other day that said, "Joel is the one charming character in the book, and we're left with t...more
Roxanne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Judith
I became interested in this book when I learned that the author also wrote "Notes on a Scandal" which was made into a really good movie a few years back (Cate Blanchett plays a school teacher who has an affair with her student, and is exposed by her supposed friend, Judy Dench). This book did not disappoint. I was captivated from the first page. The story concerns a NYC family who rallies around their father and mother when the father suffers a stroke which essentially puts him in a coma. The da...more
Tim Bold
I think I enjoyed this book, but I can't think why. It is well written - the narrative flows easily and the style and language are conversational and carry the story well.
The novel explores the nature of belief - religious, social, moral and political. It systematically takes apart the motivation of the characters' in their beliefs, but fails to take a stand itself.
The main problem is, in common with many 'comic' tales, that the characters are unlikeable to the point of being grotesque. Most of...more
Kirstie
I was kind of let down by this book...I thought the writing would be a bit more fast paced and sardonic and I thought that the way it ended was a bit too open for me. At its best moments, you realize that it succeeds of telling the story of family from even before conception, the move from England to America, the raising of children and copying with infidelities and your now adult children in all their oddities, religious pilgrimages, and drug addictions. It's a little bit about political activi...more
Katie
I'll get back to you on this one, but my initial feeling is that while the prose can be wonderfully descriptive ("Up close, the three men were a small anthology of body odors"), the characters are so AWFUL, so sure of themselves in their political stances and moral superiority that even though it's clear that the author shares my opinion of them I am not sure I will be able to make it through.

****

It took me awhile to get back to this review, because I wanted to think about why I disliked the ch...more
Robin Nicholas
This one is a hard one to review. I couldn't stop reading it...but did I really like it? I am not sure. This book is filled with really unpleasant people that really don't seem to have many redeeming qualities. Audrey the matriarch of the family is rude, angry, foul-mouthed and obviously unhappy with everything. Her children are the products of this woman and all have their own set of issues. Some of the writing was amazing, but it almost seems like the book was written by two different people....more
Lynn
The first section was brilliant, and made me think that the entire book was going to be biting social commentary. But then the novel devolved into a family soap opera with Audrey, the mother, at the helm. In the first section she is young and acerbic. Then the novel jumps ahead in time and suddenly she's just hysterical, mean and unsympathetic. I lost interest in the characters and story pretty quickly, but I saw it through. I'm not sure why. I think the premise had some potential, but the novel...more
Brian
I really liked Zoe Heller's first book, so I was very excited to see she had written another one. This book started off slow, but quickly picked up steam until I was excited to read it. Having finished it tonight, I felt as though it wasn't as good as it COULD have been, but that being said, I thought it was welll written. Audrey is married to Joel, who has a few secrets up his sleeve. Together they have two natural children, Karla, who longs to have a child of her own with her husband Mike, an...more
Kat
I love realistic novels set in the present day; I feel there are all too few. I'm glad to have come across this excellent specimen, which deals with the family members of a leftist attorney who is a secular Jew. The novel is about people who have strong convictions, whether political or religious, and the impact of those convictions on their lives. It's a novel that explores, rather than exhorts; it's also a novel that creates memorable characters. In an author interview appended to the book Hel...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Short History of Women
  • Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978-2006
  • Sag Harbor
  • The Night Birds
  • Spooner
  • After the Fire, a Still Small Voice
  • The Vagrants
  • All Souls
  • Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
  • My Father's Tears and Other Stories
  • The Lost Daughter
  • Us: Americans Talk About Love
  • Songs for the Missing
  • All My Enemies (Brock & Kolla, #3)
  • The Great Man
  • Lean On Pete
  • The Music Lesson
  • The Matter With Morris
8268
Zoe Heller was born in London in 1965 and educated at Oxford University and Columbia University, New York. She is a journalist who, after writing book reviews for various newspapers, became a feature writer for The Independent. She wrote a weekly confessional column for the Sunday Times for four years, but now writes for the Daily Telegraph and earned the title 'Columnist of the Year' in 2002.

She...more
More about Zoë Heller...
What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] Everything You Know The Pursuit of Love Ox-Tales: Water An Englishman in New York

Share This Book