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In the Land of the Living

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  124 ratings  ·  41 reviews
A dazzling story of fathers, sons, and brothers - bound by love, divided by history

The Auberons are a lovably neurotic, infernally intelligent family who love and hate each other-and themselves-- in equal measure. Driven both by grief at his young mother's death and war with his distant, abusive immigrant father, patriarch Isidore almost attains the life of his dreams:
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Reagan Arthur Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autographed
I received an ARC from the author for reviewing purposes. Since I loved his first novel, The Jump Artist, I must admit my expectations were high. I was not disappointed...
Their father peddled certain lies the same way he pedaled his bicycle to and from his many jobs all over Cleveland Heights, with his monstrous canvas bag balanced on his back and his giant toolbox strapped to the bike with a three-pronged canvas belt. He pedaled his bike slowly and resolutely, so that he never got up any momentum, as i/>
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
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Let's get some of this out of the way first: I don't want to say that I didn't like this book. But I can't say that I enjoyed it all that much, either. Ultimately, I think I just didn't get it -- the style of writing was just not to my tastes. I liked the essence of the story but the execution didn't always work for me. The writing style seems like it was being overly intellectual just to show off how smartly written it is. I've never read anything els
Jacquelyn Sand
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read Austin Ratner's extraordinarily brilliant, creative "In the Land of the Living" one time, almost non-stop, and have spent an afternoon re-reading sections, going back to find some favorite quotations and passages: "Their father peddled certain lies the same way he pedaled his bicycle to and from his many jobs all over Cleveland Heights" or ".. Cleveland, with its ring of beautiful suburbs and long burning avenues leading straight down to ruin". Austin Ratner captures so many specific plac ...more
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jun-13
"In The Land Of The Living" captures the lifelong impact of traumatic childhood losses, through generations, of a family that is torn apart.
Ratner's writing is compelling, had emotional depth and the story was well told.
There is something to be said for an author who can have you in tears over the certainty of life's pain and on the next page laughing at the certainty of life's humor.
I look forward to more by Austin Ratner.
Jeremy Paris
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of In The Land of the Living late yesterday afternoon and finished it (very late) last night. I literally did not put it down.

This is a wonderfully written coming of age story-- actually two of them, the father and then the son, shot through with raw truths and real life. Ratner brings to this work the dark gallows humor that was the understated strength of his first novel, The Jump Artist, but adds to the mix a healthy dose of light humor, s
Betsy Seifter
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In the Land of the Living takes you on a journey from terrifying early loss to a place of real happiness; it made me cry and it made me laugh out loud. Ultimately I felt that it delivered something rare in contemporary novels: the straight, unadorned truth. It’s a novel of growing up, though hardly conventional, and it begins with a death: Leo’s father dies when he’s only three. The dark hauntings of fragmentary early memory are grounded for the reader in an opening section from the young father ...more
Wayne McCoy
Apr 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Isidore Auberon had a tough childhood. He lost his mom at a young age. On a good day, his dad was neglectful, but on a bad day, he was abusive. Isidore learned to fend for his younger brothers, and in the end, he turned out okay. He got a good job and a wife and a couple sons of his own.

Leo doesn't get along with his brother Mack. Through family tragedy, his younger brother doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with him. Leo keeps trying, but he screws up most attempts at a tru
Jul 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Well here's the thing ... the plot seems to be hidden in there somewhere, and I've read half the book and still can't find it. I could cope with that if I liked the characters but I don't particularly. I don't hate them either. Actually, I don't really relate to them at all and that is a problem for me. I like simple things in life. A plot that has a direction that I can find without applying pythagorean theorem to it would be good. I don't hate this book either and I expect I will eventually fi ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
'Are there no stones in Heaven but what serve for the thunder?' Shakespeare

After reading Austin Ratner's debut novel this reviewer wrote the following, repeated here because it pertains to this new second novel: `Austin Ratner joins the ranks of physicians-turned-writers (Rabelais, Keats, Chekhov, Somerset Maugham, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Carlos Williams, Michael Crichton, Khaled Hosseini, etc) in this very impressive debut novel THE JUMP ARTIST, a 'fictionalized biographical
Jun 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook-arc
In the Land of the Living is a novel about fathers and sons, as well as brothers. I enjoyed the dynamics of some of the relationships portrayed in the book, and I felt very sympathetic toward some of the characters. I thought that it was a character driven book, and some of those characters were very well developed.

Isidore Auberon grew up protecting his brothers from his cruel father. Isidore worked hard and graduated from Harvard to become a doctor. He is mentored by a doctor who tr
This is going to be a short review. I requested and received an ARC a while ago that didn't expire. I finally read it. I mostly have no opinion about the book. It didn't hold my attention long enough to form either an opinion or an attachment to any of the characters. Only one portion - a very short one - made an impression on me. Isidore, the family patriarch, writes in a baby book about his little son Leo, who feels too much.

Isidore is made out to be legendary - his part of the book is told i
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Isidore, abandoned to a cruel father by the death of his mother, grows up, slays a dragon, wins a princess, sires sons -- and before living happily ever after, dies. This is no fairy tale; it's life in the land of the living. How do you live in this harsh and terrifying place? Ratner's novel chronicles one son's struggle to figure it out. Parsimoniously and elegantly, Ratner captures the cores of his characters, their losses, their frailties, and their graces. Isidore's tender entries in his son ...more
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In the Land of the Living captures the essence of multiple stages of life by poignantly articulating the language of both the little child and the coming of age adolescent. From the moment I began reading Leo's journey, I found myself engrossed and unable to put the book down. Ratner vividly portrays the feelings of not just Leo but all the people in his world. I entered into the private life of Leo and found myself truly understnading the challenges presented by early loss. But, I also laughed ...more
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
An interesting read- In the Land of the Living has a distinctly male perspective about multiple generations of fathers, sons, and brothers. I was intrigued by the timelessness of the stories and the generational struggle and sadness. A beautifully crafted novel!
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ratner's dark humor is definitely an acquired taste, but it's beautifully written and I couldn't put it down.
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book rated 3.0 of 5

Just as there are books that one might call "Chick Lit," so too are there books best described as "Bro Books." This is a "Bro Book."

Isidore Auberon lost his mother when he was very young. His father was fortunately absent a lot, but was abusive when present. Isidore works hard to over-come these early life obstacles and to make something of himself, and he does so. Graduating from Harvard and medical sc
Jennifer Stephens
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, fiction
I just finished reading In the Land of the Living by Austin Ratner. It’s powerful novel, a tale of men – fathers, brothers, and sons wherein women play the supporting background roles. The story opens on three Hungarian brothers, Burt, Isidore, and Dennis, all of whom have a difficult relationship with their father, Ezer. And so a significant portion of the early chapters in the novel focus on the tension between father and sons and Isidore is distinguished as the story’s original protagonist.

Later, the novel fol
Kathy Cowie
This book is hard for me to review. Parts of it were so overwhelmingly wonderful, that I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be reading it, thanks to a NetGalley ARC. But at other times, I was disappointed. I have to admit I checked the author’s bio midway through because I was absolutely convinced that he had to be a doctor, or at least he was one before he started writing. I felt a similar way when I read Cutting for Stone. So yes, I was biased when I was correct. Some of the things that lead me to ...more
Bonnie Brody
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
In The Land of the Living is a fascinating look at three generations of the Auberon family. It starts with Ezer, a tyrant to his three sons. When their mother dies at an early age from stomach cancer, Ezer farms them out to foster homes where they are treated better than he ever treated the. He especially did not like one of his sons and would hit him on the head an body with heavy objects. Isadore, the middle son, turned out quite well. He attended Harvard and became a doctor of renown. He met ...more
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
In the Land of the Living captures the lifelong effects of traumatic childhood losses in a family that is splintered beyond repair. Author Austin Ratner has created a coming of age story for not one, but two men in a family saga that spans more than one generation with eerily similar tragedies. Isidore struggled with a cold and distant widowed father, trying to shield his siblings from his parental wrath, while vowing to make a success of his own life. Leo, Isidore’s son, is faced with almost identica ...more
Apr 25, 2013 rated it liked it
I gave up on In the Land of the Living about one hundred pages in. The death of a character I had grown fond of definitely played a part in my loss of interest, but more, I tired of the passages of darkly descriptive prose, odd juxtapositions of point of view, thinly drawn secondary characters and overall pall of sadness.

Some books are meant to be sad, I know, and through the veil we see growth and triumph (otherwise I’m not sure of the point of the book except as a means of excising the author’s dep
Feb 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Sometimes you read a book and it's not particularly great, but it's not terrible, and you reach the end going 'What was the point, exactly?' And In the Land of the Living is definitely one such book. A story covering the life of Isidore Auberon and his two sons (though one far more directly than the other), this was one that was difficult to connect to or relate with on any level for me - not because the characters didn't go through things that I can personally identify with, but because there just wa ...more
Cindie Harp
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
In the Land of the Living is a coming-of-age story, a family saga, a book about fathers and sons (and brothers), a story highlighting the differences and misunderstandings between generations. It also has a sins-of-the-father-being-visited-on-the-son undertone, in a way.

Austin Ratner’s writing is truly wonderful–that is probably my favorite thing about In the Land of the Living. Yes, I liked the story, but the writing and the way Ratner put the story together are what really made me enjoy this bo
❂ Sam ❂
Sep 21, 2013 rated it liked it
I didn't review this book on Nerdophiles because it doesn't fit with our usual genres (and I actually requested this by mistake via an email sent out by NetGalley) but I wanted to write and say just how wonderful the book was. Not a whole lot of books get to me on an emotional level like this usually because I tend to read more science fiction and YA books than I do more adult, contemporary novels. The family dynamics in this book were very real and powerful and I really felt for Leo in particul ...more
Deborah Paris
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is brilliantly written, brilliantly conceived. It is a page turner on one hand- a family saga and coming of age story- and on the other, a deeply expressive and psychological rendering of loss and the life one lives after. Ratner's ability to convey the feelings of every generation in a way that is strikingly true, nuanced and surprising puts this in the realm of great literature. The prose is beautiful- economical at times, poetic and swooping at others. There is nothing predictable a ...more
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
For the most part, I really enjoyed this book, but I have to admit that parts of it were confusing and uninteresting because the story occasionally disappeared and was replaced with odd ramblings of thought, or endless detail about something that bored the hell out of me. But in spite of those temporary distractions, it was a good story. It was an emotional but fascinating study of a wounded and complicated family, that kept me turning the pages. In particular, I really wanted the two brothers t ...more
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In the Land of the Living is a novel that captures completely the feeling of childhood loss and its aftermath. It is populated by characters, some sketched with just a few words of complete accuracy that evoke a whole person, who are totally real and complex. The novel tackles the issue of heroism with all its aspirations and traps, tackles adolescence in its general and specific, deals with the curse of tragic loss and the universal struggle to make sense and carry on. And somehow, while dealin ...more
Jo Barton
Dec 21, 2013 rated it liked it
In the land of the Living is the story of fathers, sons and brothers and of the family ties which bound them together. Mainly this is a story about divided loyalties and the anger and unease which can fester and accumulate until problems become insurmountable. Isidore Auberon has grown up with the need to protect his brothers from their abusive father and it is this drive and ambition to protect which will propel Isidore into accomplishing his medical training. When Isadore has his won family he ...more
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: net-galley
It was an interesting story and had some qualities in it that reminded me of John Irving's writing, which I love. At the end of the day, I didn't really feel a lot towards this story. Something about this just didn't connect me deeply to the characters. I felt very disconnected from Leo in the middle section of the book and while the last section with him and Mack on the road trip was more interesting, I just didn't really care all the much about them at that point. Thanks to Netgalley for the r ...more
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Has anyone read it? 2 11 Feb 06, 2013 03:54PM  

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Austin Ratner’s first novel, The Jump Artist, won the 2011 Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature. His next novel, In the Land of the Living, is forthcoming from Reagan Arthur / Little Brown in 2013.

Before turning to writing he received his M.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and he is co-author of the textbook Concepts in Medical Physiology. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and now lives in Brooklyn, New York with his