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Man Alive!
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Man Alive!

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  348 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
A warm, funny, and profoundly original novel about a family
dealing with disaster, from a rising literary star.

All it takes is a quarter to change pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Owen Lerner’s life. When the coin he’s feeding into a parking meter is struck by lightning, Lerner survives, except that now all he wants to do is barbecue. What will happen to his patients, who rely on
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: other
While on vacation with his wife, twin sons and daughter a man is struck by lightning. Suddenly the family structure seems as if it will get a jolt of its own as all family members come to terms with various changes in their lives. So the author thus paints a world of an urban family weathering everyday crises while the lightning struck surviving father obsesses over barbecue. Strange premise for a book. However do not discount it as it actually works, and rather well at that. I found myself expe ...more
Jay Wexler
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Can I give this six stars?
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Man alive, I like this book.

And I've spent a few days thinking about why I like it. The easiest reason is because the subject family resembles mine - Dad is in the same sector of making a living as am I, they have 3 kids, they live about a 10 minute drive away. Also, I've been dying to find a book I could really like.

But also because the writing here is just good. You can tell the author had fun writing this novel - that is, if it is at all possible to have fun while writing a novel - and the en
Mar 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A great read--and a great book club book--with the perfect balance of humor and depth. Barbecue, tattooing, the meaning of's all in there!
Patricia E.
Sep 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sooner or later almost everyone is hit by lightening, if not literally than metaphorically, and lives are turned upside down and inside out. In Mary Kay Zuravleff’s smart, masterfully crafted, and multi-layered new novel, the strike is literal, but the after effects on Owen Lerner (a metaphorically appropriate last name) and his family could be the after effects of any major catastrophic event on any middle-class U.S. family. The fact that so many families have been and are struggling to overcom ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it liked it
This book starts off in such a strong, powerful way, that I was tempted to give it 4 stars for the first half. But it petered out in the second half, and that was a disappointment. But what a beginning, and this author can write!

Dr. Owen Lerner, noted child psychiatrist, is feeding quarters in the parking meter when he is literally struck by lightening. The description of this event is so vivid and, at times scarily hilarious, that it alone is worth the reading of this book. His whole family is
Marylou Cumberpatch
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Our book group read the two previous novels by this author so I was looking forward to her new novel, Man Alive. I pretty much read it in one sitting - I was bewitched by the characters! Mary Kay took a typical Bethesda, MD family and threw at them a weird random event - the dad was struck by lightning while they were on vacation in Rehobeth Beach. The resulting story is all at once beguiling, sad, comic and quirky - a MUST READ - especially if you have teenagers and live in the D.C. metro area! ...more
Kate Lemery
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a great read, a real page turner. It’s a smart book, laced with symbolism and clever prose.
This story felt very real, and all the characters seemed like people I know. In particular, the author seems to have her pulse on the teenage/college age mind.

Despite the extraordinary situation of having a father/husband hit by lighting, this family acts in very ordinary, relatable ways. The author lays out both sides of the situation so well that I was torn as to what I hoped would happen by the
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This novel is stunning! I've never felt more alive! You really have to read this masterful work of art!
“Man Alive! is all pleasure, even as the Lerner family suffers acutely. Mary Kay Zuravleff's novel delivers the particular pleasure of the thing perfectly described. This is a book to share, reading sentences aloud to marvel at—how’d she come up with that! How does she know so much! How can she be so funny, and then so poignant, one, two, punch.”
—Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World and
Joanna Hinton
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Thank you ML for recommending this. book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A great read to start the new year 2014. The family dynamics and character insights and thoughts felt very authentic and were mesmerising. So much going on: twins, meds & drugs, asperger, myths, math, love, barbecues, family, college, Whole foods, Bethesda, & Rehobeth etc woven together and spell bounding. It's a keeper on my Kindle, and I want to read her other books. Wish I had a book group to share it with; I 'll be re ...more
Caroline Anna Bock
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
MAN ALIVE is a terrific family drama of what happens to a family immediately after an almost incredible— but believably and vividly written trauma— happens to the father. If you are in a book club, this novel would give you much to talk about, some things to laugh about, and even barbeque to serve up to complement your meeting!
Sep 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I could only make it to page 143 or so. I grew up in the DC suburbs and was looking forward to reading it. Enjoyed the first few pages of the good doctor being electrocuted at Rehoboth Beach but it quickly grew stagnant and bogged down. I lost total interest in his change of personality and his return to "normalcy."
Martha Toll
This book is terrific. It's brilliantly written--snappy sentences chocked full with surprising and inventive metaphors. A family drama that's very specific to the Lerners, and yet affecting and thought provoking for all of us.
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My god. This book. This author. ALL THE WORDS. Test of a true literary love when my margins are nearly artwork with thoughts, musings, connections brought about by the words I am reading. So in love with this author and her ability to delve into the smallest detail with such clarity and insight.
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
While the premise is wacky and the humor is fun, there was more relevance and introspection about family than I expected. This was an enjoyable surprise and a great choice for summer reading.
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
superb book. . .great characters and intriguing plot. . .her wry insights on family life remind me of a young Anne Tyler. . .good book club choice!!
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is so much fun -- I couldn't put it down. Mary Kay Zuravleff's colorful characters and on-the-spot descriptions never fail to entertain!
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Loved the way the confusion of the drawn out lighting scene came into focus as the story evolved.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
2.5: Man gets hit by lightning and propels his family into interesting scenarios...and then just leaves them there. Well-written, but suffers from death by character stagnation.
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Dr. Owen Lerner is struck by lightning at the very beginning of the story and the rest of the novel is about his recovery and the effects on his family. Initially, I didn't know what to think of this book. It's very well written, with clever puns and literary references galore ("Yes I said yes I will Yes!" says one character, echoing Molly Bloom in Joyce's Ulysses)but I found myself slogged down at times in weird sentence constructions. Then I realized I was reading it too quickly - as a literar ...more
Aug 14, 2014 rated it liked it
A novel about a pediatric psychologist who gets struck by lightning and becomes a different person, and how this affects his family.

It's a semi-comedic, semi-dramatic novel (so, it's a dramady. Why didn't I just say "dramady"?), at times poignant and at other times mildly outrageous (is that an oxymoron?). It's yet another in the "quirky family" genre... I think I've read too many of these recently because I found it tiresome pretty early on. But it's really not its fault--I shouldn't keep readi
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well-drawn characters come alive in this book, none more so than the father who survives a lightning strike and starts seeing his family and his patients in new, and not always welcome, ways. I thought the family was interesting, perhaps over-analytical. Lots of navel-gazing and angst but it rang true, especially for the college-aged twins. The family dynamics, especially those between the twins, were interesting. The idea that each family member fills a role (the pretty one, smart one, screw-up ...more
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
When I read the synopsis of the book, I thought it would be a funny quirky book. It IS funny and quirky, but was also deep and touching and a fun read.

Zuravleff’s writing style is such that it caused me to care about each character. (Enough so that I’m looking forward to reading her other books.) If I can’t connect to the characters in a book, then I lose interest quickly. In Man Alive, I couldn’t wait to learn about each of the children and their individual storylines. Even though I wish the s
Oct 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
I'm still trying to figure the point of this story out. I really don't think Zuravleff feels sorry for these poor rich people who have to deal with everyday problems. Admittedly one of them is a complex medical issue, but as she brings to their attention through a friend's child's illness, they are obviously not the only ones dealing. AND they have the money to deal, for sure. I could scrounge up absolutely no pity for any of them.

So the best explanation I can come up with: what would it take t
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Overall, I found this book to be enjoyable. The author certainly has a way with words and I really enjoyed the writing. She made it easy for me to connect and empathize with the characters. I do wish she had included more about Ricky, or had altogether left out the couple of short scenes of him at school. I enjoyed his portion of the story but was left wanting more.

The ending also left me wanting more. The reader journeys with this family from perfection to rock bottom, without much resolution.
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book in a First Reads giveaway. I signed up for it because I found the premise very intriguing and the book did not disappoint.

Zuravleff's story is about a man who gets struck by lightning while on vacation with his family. The ripples from this event threaten to tear apart his family as he struggles to deal with, among other things, an intense desire to barbecue just about anything he can and a goal of recapturing the euphoria he felt during his lightning strike.

I fou
Lorine Kritzer
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"Man Alive" kept me mesmerized from page 1. It has all the elements of a good read -- smooth plot flow, complex character development, detailed descriptions, a balance between heart-tugging poignancy and laugh out loud humor, and a variety of themes--without sacrificing the characteristics of good literary fiction. The issues are tackled with sensitivity and nuance, and the story remains fresh throughout. It's an excellent choice for book club discussion (mine loved it!), being rich in discussio ...more
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
It might've taken me a bit to get into this novel, in the same way that the protagonist Owen is piecing the world together after getting struck by lightning, but the second half of it was like slipping down a pool's slide - in fact, several slides - as Owen and his wife Toni and their three children are all carried along by/in their own stories, splashing down together at the book's end, for a meal on Thanksgiving Day. Owen is a force of nature, shocked back to a kind of primitivism by the light ...more
Nov 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Man Alive! by Mary Kay Zuravleff is a decent read. It starts strong, it seems like it has a decent enough middle but ends up just sort of plodding along to its ending. Despite some plot turns, some ratcheted-up drama, it just ends and by the end of the book I was happy just to be done.
In the end, I just don’t care that much about the characters, or maybe, I stopped caring.
I want to write more. I want to make this a long, in-depth review. I want to hit 600 words. But I can’t, because there is
Heena Gahlon
I would give this story a 3/5. This story started off really slow, it really took me awhile to actually get into it. When the story got more interesting though the characters began to develop and become more complex as the story goes on.The characters show a debt of complexity that most authors don't take the time to develop.The perfect family facade the family once projected begins to fade as each detail is examined of their lives. You start to see that all is not as it seems.The author is very ...more
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Book Keeping: Man Alive! by Mary Kay Zuravleff 1 5 Jan 30, 2014 10:46AM  
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Mary Kay Zuravleff is the author of three novels published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Man Alive! is her newest. Alice McDermott called it an "exuberant novel, a sparkling book"; Tom Perrott praised it as a "witty and engaging novel"; and Jane Hamilton said "This is a book to share, reading sentences aloud to marvel at."

She is also the author of The Bowl Is Already Broken, which the New York Tim
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“We should have made do at home. We threw away so much food."

Ricky says, "We ran out of ketchup," and the rest of them concur. No ketchup, no dinner.”
More quotes…