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Disobedience

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  2,663 ratings  ·  220 reviews
Winner of the 1989 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Awardfor best first novel, this exquisite bookconfronts real-life issues of alienation and violencefrom which the author creates a stunning testamentto the human capacity for mercy, compassion andlove.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 5th 2002 by Doubleday (first published October 17th 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Danita M
I have enjoyed some Jane Hamilton books more than others. This one was very good. Her prose is beautiful, and her subject matter interesting. I liked the quirkiness of the characters (Civil War reenactments, musicians that play music most people have never heard). Their interests (sometimes obsessions) with the past sometimes made me forget that the setting was modern day… until it started talking about e-mail again.
I particularly liked that she chose to tell the story that is largely about a w
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Holli
I really liked this book. I listened to the audio version, narrated by Robert Sean Leonard, who did a great job. Like Hamilton's other book, When Madeline Was Young, this one is also sort of a coming-of-age story narrated by a teen-aged boy, but this one is much more effective.

I found this book to be very humorous. It's a certain kind of humor, a hint of sarcasm, but not meanspirited. Maybe "droll" is the right word. I heard Jane Hamilton speak earlier this year and I was surprised at how funny
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Sarah
This book grated against my skin, but I wouldn't say it was a bad book, and the secondary character- a die hard 11 year old civil war re-enactor who also happened to be a girl- was fascinating and I loved her. I kept wanting to stuff a sock in the narrator (her brother)'s mouth, to hear more about her. It was like being invited to someone else's family reunion, and finding yourself really interested in everyone in the family except for the one pouty, self involved teenager you are seated next to ...more
Sheba
This book just made so much sense. How Miss Jane Hamilton wrote a boy, and not just any boy but a lovely, funny, bare, boy, is inconceivable to me.

It's a love story between a son and his mother. It's a storing of weaning, a boy who becomes a man through vigilance over his mother's personal correspondence with her lover. Watching her fall in love, betray her husband and her family allows him to fall out of love with the woman who raised him and judge and differentiate from the woman she is. An a
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Sara
Books like "Disobedience" aren't normally my cup of tea. But this melancholy coming of age story goes well beyond the usual book club fare.

The story of sweet, sad Henry Shaw and his amazingly disfunctional but incredibly compelling family is so very much worth reading. Its one of my "go to" novels and I've thumbed through it many times.

From his border line, Civil War reenacting sister who wears rebel grey everywhere they go to a passionate, very imperfect mother everyone in Henry's world is wor
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Linda
I've read other Jane Hamilton books and enjoyed them, but this one was a slow go for me. An interesting idea for a book about the Shaw family with 17 year-old Henry as the narrator who reads his mother's e-mails and discovers that she's having an affair. There's Elvira, the quirky sister and Kevin, the pre-occupied dad, and Beth, the mom who comes across as a flat character. Kevin's thoughts are random making the book choppy and uninteresting. I didn't care about these characters and would have ...more
Shannon
This is an interesting book that takes a look at infidelity from a teenage son's perspective. He finds out about his mother's secret and it eats him alive. This book has very memorable characters and interesting historical references.
Frederick Bingham
This is a story about Henry Shaw. He and his family have just moved from rural Vermont to Chicago, where is father is a teacher and his mother is pursuing a career as a musician. Mid-way through his senior year, Henry discovers his mother is having an affair with another musician. He learns this because he figures out how to read his mother's email. She and her lover correspond frequently.Most of the book is about how Henry deals with this knowledge. He keeps it mostly a secret. He does tell his ...more
Trixie Fontaine
Overall I just "liked" the book, but feel like I should give it a grudging four stars, because there were indeed some aspects of it that I *really* liked. I loved Elvirnon, for example, and her passion for authentic Civil War re-enactments. I wouldn't want to read a whole book about that, but it was perfect as a metaphorical backdrop here. Didn't love the main character, but I guess we're not supposed to a whole lot. Maybe? I don't know, but it's hard to love a book when the only person you love ...more
Meghan
A teenage boy named Henry reads his mom's email and finds out she's having an affair, then creepily keeps secretly reading her email for months and months, printing out messages as an archive, and just generally creeping it up and obsessing about how her affair relates to him. His mom at one point goes to a tarot reader and emails a friend about how the reader told her that Henry and she were married in a past life, and now they're mother and son. Henry reads that email, of course, and thinks di ...more
Stacy
This book is too. And everyone in it is too. Too wordy. Too unique. Too stereotyped. Too obsessive. Too extreme. I mean, he couldn't just be a political father - he is a socialist with a history addiction. The mom isn't just a musician - she practically exudes music in her breath. The son isn't just a teenage boy with typical angst and self-discovery issues - he is amiable, polite, socially acceptable to English dancing parents and voyeuristic. The daughter. I can't even make a too statement for ...more
Jennifer G
You can never accuse a Hamilton book of being "light reading," (I almost jumped off a bridge after reading A Map of the World), but this book is probably as close as she can get while still maintaining that dramatic focus on trauma within a family. A teenage boy inadvertently reads his mother's email (that fact is still hard for me to swallow), and discovers she's begun an affair with an immigrant violin maker. The book traces the boy's life as he traces his mother's affair through her emails to ...more
Natalie
I really liked the narrator's younger sister, who's an obsessive cross-dressing historical re-enactor. But too often she's on the scene only to mark the family's "quirkiness" or comic academic dysfunction -- which was uneasily deployed as contrast to the emotional tragedy supposedly experienced by the "I'm too smart for this narrative" narrator. The facade of Writerliness -- supposedly of the narrator, not the novel's author -- was far too irritating and got in the way of any sparks the novel co ...more
Kris
1 STAR

"A wayward wife, an oedipally obsessed e-mail snoop, a pint-sized Civil War re-enactor (oops, make that living historian) and a cheerfully oblivious cuckold comprise the Shaws of Chicago, the decidedly quirky characters of Jane Hamilton's fourth novel, Disobedience. An unlikely family to fall prey to the vagaries of modern life, the Shaws are consumed with clog dancing, early music and the War Between the States. They do possess a computer, however, and when 17-year-old Henry stumbles int
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Michelle
Nov 18, 2007 Michelle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Jane Hamilton's somewhat dark tone
Shelves: audiobooks
Got this audiobook for a recent trip. It took me until the end to realize it was Robert Sean Leonard ("Dead Poet's Society" reading it. Anyway, I like Jane Hamilton. She doesn't sugarcoat anything. Here a teenager starts reading his mom's email and finds out she's having an affair. But he doesn't call her on it right away. Then the tale gets all twisty. There's an interesting subploat about the boy's younger sister and her hobby of dressing up as a Civil War reenactor.
Julia Mukuddem
not a 5 star book and i won't say you HAVE to read it, but i still liked it. she is one of my favourite authors - her book 'a map of the world' is on my top list.

i like to switch between different genres that i enjoy - so every now and then i'm ready for some emotion - and that is what her books are about. i love her style of writing.
Kate W
This is the story of a boy who reads his mom's emails and discovers she's having an affair. He is tormented with how to handle it. Very interesting. The sub-plot is of his sister's obsession with the civil war. She disguises herself as a boy to be able to participate in civil war reinactments.
Maryellen
Jane Hamilton is a wonderful author. She wrote this book from a teenaged-boy's perspective, which demonstrated interesting range and insight. I liked this book, yes I did.
Theresadaum
I read this years ago and at times bits and pieces of it would pop up in my memory if something spurred them on, and the memories were so strong that I wanted to re visit this book because for the life of me I could not remember what actually happened in it. I do love Map of the World, even though it was a bit depressing after, and was ready for something serious for a bit. The book is on serious subjects, but is tastefully written and actually quite funny, at times making me giggle out loud. Sh ...more
Jennifer Plummer
I deeply wish I still had a copy of this book in front of me so I had the ability to pick a few of my favorite quotes to share. One that really did stick with me, I apologize for not knowing it word for word, was something along the lines of it takes turning the other way and being patient for marriages to work out. I have to say on the topic of the affair, it was kind of strange seeing the emails through the eyes of her teenage son. Somehow, though, that made the book.

I wasn't sure how this bo
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Sterlingcindysu
The amount of research that went into the characters' background was extensive! The sister and husband/father are in Civil War re-enactments (and with living in northern Virginia, there's alot of that going on here.) The mother is a pianist with old-timey folk dances.

So, okay the characters were well fleshed out (and I wish the mother in law Minty would had more of a hand in the story than just dispensing money), but the story, not so much. It's about the son, Henry reading his mother's email a
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Mary
Oct 31, 2012 Mary rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes contemporary fiction
Recommended to Mary by: Bookmooch
Henry Shaw is a high school senior who, at seventeen years old, is about as comfortable with his family as any teenager can be. His father, Kevin, teaches history with a decidedly socialist tinge at the Chicago private school Henry and his sister attend. His mother, Beth, who plays the piano in a group specializing in antique music, is a loving, attentive wife and parent. Henry even accepts the offbeat behavior of his thirteen-year-old sister, Elvira, who is obsessed with Civil War reenactments ...more
Kellidee
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kay Baird
Hamilton surprises me with epiphanies wrested out of tragedy. In this one a married woman has an affair. Told from the point of view of her teenage son Henry, who finds out, and wrestles with his own understanding of love, of different kinds of love. His sister the male impersonator is a hoot of a character -- but realistic, sympathetic, and appealing.

The children take center stage; we see the adults through Henry's eyes, at some remove. He conjectures about their character, their motivations.
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Patrice Sartor
First off, I put this on my military-war-terrorism shelf only because the narrator's sister and father are heavily into Civil War re-enactments. That said, Jane Hamilton is incredibly talented at characterization. I am convinced she could portray the point of view of a couch and I would come to bond with the furniture and understand why it sometimes doesn't want people to sit on it. Here, she has poured her skill into the voice of a teenage boy.

The boy, Henry, reads his mother's email, and disco
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Lemon
Jul 31, 2012 Lemon rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lemon by: No one
Shelves: fiction
''When seventeen-year-old Henry Shaw discovers that all is not as it seems with his ordinary mid-western American Family -that,in fact,his mother is having a passionate affair-he is unable to tell anyone.


''Neither his amiable father, a history teacher,nor his slightly offbeat younger sister, a spirited girl obsessed with Civil War reenactments, has any idea that their world is about to change.''

I've finished reading this book just an hour ago and I could really say that it was Stunning.... The
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Laura
This book reminds me of my feeling watching *thumbsucker* Somewhere in that film, wading through interesting performances by Vince Vaughn, Vincent D'Onofrio, Keanu Reeves; I found a quiet moment with the incomparable Tilda Swinton and thought "Oh! She is the beating heart -- this film is about women, this film is about mothers." Tilda was strange and strong and absolutely real, and everything in the story revolved around her. That kind of story is so rare.

So often literature that celebrates wom
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Kim Marshall
This is a well written and entertaining story. I must admit I kept wondering what made Jane Hamilton write this tale from the perspective of a teenage male, Henry. Clearly Henry is groping with his own first sexual experiences and in addition dealing with the seemingly unwanted knowledge of an ongoing affair that his mother is engaged in. While I feel it is an interesting and creative perspective I still wondered, why choose the male point of view? On the other hand why not? But I still wonder.

I
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Carolyn
Ho hum. I didn't like this one as much the other Hamilton books I've read. The narrator is a man, telling us about his family 10 years ago, during his senior year of high school. I'm sure it had "meaning", but I found it distracting that he referred to his mother as Mrs Shaw, Beth, Liza(the name she used on the email account with which she communicated with her lover and her best friend), and 'my mother'. It irritated me. Also, he seemed a little TOO concerned with his mom and her affair. Not th ...more
Melanie
When I read Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, I had a really hard time believing that Wally was a man, as he'd really nailed down the woman's perspective. I'd be very curious to know if men felt the same way about Jane Hamilton's writing of Henry. It seemed so genuinely male to me!!

As for the story, there was a similar crisis in my life when I was Henry's age. His musings, courtesy of Ms. Hamilton were eerily close to what my mind spun when I was alone with my own conscience. Dealing with the dis
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a kid finds out about his mother's affair 3 32 May 26, 2009 06:28AM  
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Jane Hamilton lives, works, and writes in an orchard farmhouse in Wisconsin. Her short stories have appeared in Harper's magazine. Her first novel, The Book of Ruth, won the PEN/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award for best first novel and was a selection of the Oprah Book Club. Her second novel, A Map of the World, was an international bestseller.
More about Jane Hamilton...
A Map of the World The Book of Ruth When Madeline Was Young Short History of a Prince Laura Rider's Masterpiece

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