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The Land of Steady Habits

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  819 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
Anders Hill, entering his early sixties and seemingly ensconced in the "land of steady habits" -- a nickname for the affluent, morally strict hamlets of Connecticut that dot his commuter rail line -- abandons his career and family for a new condo and a new life. Stripped of the comforts of his previous identity, Anders turns up at a holiday party full of his ex-wife's frie ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 25th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company
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switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
The negating emptiness of a man’s late middle age is examined alongside of the encroaching isolation of America’s late-stage capitalism. Ted Thompson’s debut novel is reminiscent of Cheever and Updike, rightly so, and his narrative, to me, was warmer and less self-conscious than Updike. Most of the novel takes place in a tony exurb of Connecticut during the Christmas holidays, as Anders Hill’s life begins to unravel.

In order to support his early retirement, Anders needs to sell the house that t
Carol Brill
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Exact transparent prose creates a voice that pulled me in from the first page. The main character, Anders Hill, is a newly retired sixty-something year old man. In spite of living a responsible life of "steady habits," providing for his family and building a successful career, he finds himself unfulfilled and depressed. He seemingly throws it all away, divorcing his wife, leaving his job, and moving into an "interesting" condo. Ander's character is so compassionately developed, that in spite of ...more
Larry H
Nov 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Is it ever too late in life to have a mid-life crisis?

Anders Hill doesn't think so. He and his wife, Helene, are living a financially comfortable life in suburban Connecticut, socializing with the same group of people they have for years. Both of their sons are grown and have moved on to lives of their own (one more successfully than the other), and they've just finished the requisite home renovations.

For some reason, this life is no longer enough for Anders. He retires from his job in the finan
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up on a whim. I had read that it was a very good debut novel, and I love good debuts. I could barely put it down after the first few pages. I knew almost immediately that it was the kind of skilled writing and storytelling that I love. It seemed clear that writing this novel meant a whole lot to the author as I felt his heartbeats throughout.

May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars: The Land of Steady Habits is a hilarious look at male late-middle-age crisis. Ted Thompson is being touted as “the new and improved” John Updike, with which I concur. The cantankerous main character, Anders Hill, has reached his 60’s and no longer wants to tolerate, what he views as, his insipid life. He’s done all the right things: worked hard; made money; supported his wife and family; and all for what?

I am pleasantly surprised to see such a young author write with such precision a
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
I have grown so tired of books about ne'er-do-well men and the wives and mothers who love them anyway. Not a likable character in the book!
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books-read

The Land of Steady Habits was an unexpected surprise. The focus of the story is on Anders Hill, a 60 year old man who lived life according to the rules. Married to Helene, with 2 grown sons -- one son, Preston, 33, is still finding himself. Anders has spent his career traveling from his home in an affluent CT town to his job in finance in New York City. Now at 60, after years and years of witnessing the corporate greed of Wall Street, he's calling it quits and opts for early retirement.

He's not
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
READ THIS BOOK! If you like John Updike and John Cheever, then this is the book for you. Mostly about suburban angst, but the way this guy writes just hooked me from the start. Some of my favorite sentences:

Within an hour she was inundated with requests from Tommy's childhood friends, names she hadn't heard in years, many of whom had ultrasounds as their profile pics, it seemed, to advertise their induction into the phase of life she was just leaving.

Helene wished she understood something about
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
In his early sixties, Anders Hill is late for his mid-life crisis, but finds himself quitting his job and divorcing his wife. After being completely cut off from his old life and re-establishing himself in an empty condo, Anders makes the mistake of showing up at the holiday party his former circle of friends has been attending for years. Before the night is through, Anders will meet his wife's new flame, find himself outcast with the host's teenage son and set forth on a path fumbling toward la ...more
Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies
This book has the elements I like: a somewhat self-deprecating protagonist, some divorce, some parenting issues, some drug use, some disappointments and an unpredictable ending.
I liked that Anders left his wife and then realizes that he shouldn't have done that. But instead of appreciating the other facets of the story like the children who suffered the consequences of parents wanting the best for them despite what they want, i focused on whether the two would make amends. I won't spoil the endi
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel is full of flaws. Thompson shifts the focus between characters in a clumsy, odd way. He has a big problem with transitions—you'll be reading along and suddenly realize that the narrative has jumped five years forward in time. And the whole thing feels about one-fourth as long as it should be. But despite all that, I enjoyed this novel immensely. Thompson captures preppy Connecticut in beautiful, unpretentious prose--the insights, the fights, and the sentences are on par with Cheever. ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
I do not think I am the intended audience for this book. The characters are not likable, the pace of the story is glacial at best, I had no clear idea what anyone wanted at any point, nor did I care. There were some interesting points, but honestly the plot was familiar and boring and it took me forever to get through this book. The climax and resolution were disappointing. Not the type of thing I normally read and now I remember why. Again, perhaps if I was a late-age man I might enjoy this boo ...more
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Formally, this seems to intentionally collapse from its initial steady state, paralleling the characters' path. Thought it lacked audacity and memorable images until a giant champagne bottle met its doom. The prose often flexed serious old-timey '50s/'60s chops. Insightful, gracefully phrased moments more often popped on pages that seemed less worked. Stretches early on and Preston's Phishy bits, particularly, were really solid reading. A talented writer -- I look forward to what comes next.
Marnix Verplancke
Anders Hill is net de zestig voorbij wanneer hij er plots genoeg van heeft. Op zijn vrouw is hij al lang uitgekeken, zijn twee zonen zijn het huis uit en dat huis zelf? Welja, dat hoeft ook niet meer zo nodig. Zijn leven is tot stilstand gekomen, stelt hij vast, en daarom zet hij een echtscheidingsprocedure in gang, gaat hij op vervroegd pensioen en neemt hij zich voor volop voor de vrijheid te gaan. Wat merkt hij echter na verloop van tijd? Dat Helene, zijn ex, een nieuw leven begint met Donny, ...more
Matt Inman
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this impressive debut. As a fan of Richard Yates and John Cheever, I suspected The Land of Steady Habits would be up my alley, and I was impressed with how Thompson's book breathed new life into a pretty familiar conceit and set of characters. I actually found myself thinking of the film American Beauty while reading this, and I think it will lend itself well to the screen. I've read that Nicole Holofcener has optioned the material, and she's a perfect fit for the material. I co ...more
Lisa Dresdner
Apr 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I thought this book would be amusing, not only because reviews actually mention the humor, but also because of its use of a Connecticut motto as its title. It has also been compared to Updike and Cheever in the sense of it being a uniquely modern American novel. Well. First, a better title would've been "The Land of Expectations," because the "modern American" part of this novel is its wealthy suburban setting where characters are whining and bemoaning the fact that their lives are NOT what they ...more
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I could easily develop a habit of reading beautifully-written debuts like "The Land of Steady Habits."

Ted Thompson's first foray into novel writing kept me captivated from the very first page. Considering I have a short attention from reading and writing all day as a profession, I believe Thompson's ability to hook me with this story is a feat in itself.

His trick was exploring timely topics -- from aging and parent-child relationships to drug addictions and teenage rebellion -- that most readers
Courtney Maum
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Take the sexual frustrations of Updike, add in the suburban angst of Cheever and add in the readability of Franzen and you have an approximate recipe for Ted Thompson's standout debut novel. If you don't like any of the writers I've just cited, read this fine book anyway. Some people are saying that this novel is dark, but not enough people are saying that it's also extremely witty. There are laugh out loud observations throughout—one in particular about how passive aggressive people can be abou ...more
Apr 16, 2014 rated it liked it
This was an interesting book but not one I would consider as compelling as some other recent reviewers would claim. Anders is in his sixties and experiencing what some might call his midlife crisis or the revelation of the emptiness of his life. The character development is good though a little choppy at times; more background than development. It's a poignant, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous story of Anders and his family as they all muddle through this period of time because of and despite ...more
Kyle Schnitzer
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The cover is deceiving. For me, it teased me into thinking this was the next Cheever or Updike. But it is not. Anders is an incredible character, making questionable decision after questionable decision, but in a way, resembles you and I. Thompson's prose is strong, his paragraphs are long, effectively trapping the reader inside the story which offers a brief glimpse of how Anders feels his life is going. The strongest book I have read in 2014 by a long shot.
Apr 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I read it fast, as it was mighty depressing...neither the adults nor their kids would win any prizes...and what the parents "unknowingly" did to produce such loser children was awful.

There were no "adults" in this book...just people behaving badly and immaturely.

At least there was some home for the adults (?) at the end of the book...but their children were still struggling with life and identity.
Jun 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Very very well written but I tired of the problems and personal crises in the book. Not much happens plot wise, but what does happen is interesting. But the balance of "internal thoughts and reflective musing" to "action, plot and dialogue" was for me too weighted on the former. I wanted it to be over when I still had 100 pages left to read.
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Here is the novel that freed me from reader's block/compromised concentration/FOMO. Ted Thompson is as deep a listener as he is a writer - I simply cannot recommend THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS more highly. I miss Anders, Helene, Preston, Tommy, Howard the therapist(!) and the Connecticut Ashbys already.
Gabi Coatsworth
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Interesting and absorbing novel of suburban angst. Set in locations near where I live, which added some interest, but I think people everywhere could relate to the issues faced by a man who has no real problems, but no real happiness either. A good book club read, I think.
Sep 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
What a horribly unlikable character- could not muster the slightest sympathy. A pointless and boring saga. Alleged redemptive ending was one of the most anemic in memory.
Loree Harrell
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I bought this book expecting it to be overwritten (or underwritten. one of those.) primarily because I hate the cover and it led me to expect Not Much from the words inside. I actually moved this one to the top of the list to give it it's fair chance and get it over with.

It was, however, well written, and caught and held me through the individuals' stories of life within a family and friendships as thoroughly messed up as families and friendships tend to be. I think everyone will be okay, but a
May 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I should've known! My general rule of thumb is that if it isn't a 4+ star on Goodreads, I shouldn't read it! It was okay; it is what it professes to be--a front row seat to late middle-aged malaise, in spite of affluence and apparent achievement, complete with plot lines that seem a bit too outlandish (e.g., smoking marijuana with the delinquent kid of your best friends at their beautifully catered holiday party). With all of that said, I still enjoyed some parts of the book and its articulation ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Readable book for sure. Well written and kept me turning pages. I thought it was a young person's look at an old man's life and while there was lots of sympathy in the character development in the end all the characters came out pretty shallow and unreal.
Gabby Hoff
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow wow wow!!!
Shannon Taylor
Beginning another novel dealing with issues surrounding commitment and marriage, The Land of Steady Habits was a light-hearted, unintentional follow-up to Jamie Quatro's Fire Sermon. Serious topics are examined in this text; unhappiness in marriage, infidelity (to some extent), guilt, suicide, teen drug-use, etc. Although humorous in its approach, I felt Thompson did them justice in his style, leaving enough space for the reader to gain their own understanding from characters' behaviour. I was b ...more
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Ted Thompson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he was awarded a Truman Capote Fellowship. His work has appeared in Tin House and Best New American Voices, among other publications. He was born in Connecticut and lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
More about Ted Thompson
“Most of being young, she had always thought, was playing a game of elimination with an army of different selves until you settled on one, usually by circumstance. But what made her grin, sitting across a starched white tablecloth from a man who seemed to actually listen to her, was the feeling that all those other selves weren’t dead. They were still alive—multitudes of them, waiting inside her.” 1 likes
“This one, this affluent dot along the Metro North train, was like one of those beaches where sea tortoises drop off their eggs—no one was from here, and they stayed only as long as it took the little ones to hatch.” 0 likes
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