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The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047

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The year is 2029, and nothing is as it should be. The very essence of American life, the dollar, is under attack. In a coordinated move by the rest of the world’s governments, the dollar loses all its value. The American President declares that the States will default on all its loans–prices skyrocket, currency becomes essentially worthless, and we watch one family struggle to survive through it all.

The Mandibles can count on their inheritance no longer, and each member must come to terms with this in their own way–from the elegant expat author Nollie, in her middle age, returning to the U.S. from Paris after many years abroad, to her precocious teenage nephew Willing, who is the only one to actually understand the crisis, to the brilliant Georgetown economics professor Lowell, who watches his whole vision of the world disintegrate before his eyes.

As ever, in her new novel, Shriver draws larger than life characters who illuminate this complicated, ever-changing world. One of our sharpest observers of human nature, Shriver challenges us to think long and hard about the society we live in and what, ultimately, we hold most dear.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published May 5, 2016

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About the author

Lionel Shriver

44 books3,776 followers
Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London and Brooklyn, New York.

Author photo copyright Jerry Bauer, courtesy of Harper Collins.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,525 reviews
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,669 reviews2,663 followers
May 19, 2016
Shriver does a good line in biting social commentary, attacking the U.S. health care system in So Much for That and the obesity epidemic in Big Brother. Here she aims at Atwood-style near-future speculative fiction and takes as her topic the world economy. This could have been fun, but there are a few big problems. Worst is the sheer information overload: tons of economic detail crammed into frequent, wearisome conversations. One character is an economics professor, another a teenage prodigy who spouts off just as much theory. I nearly gave up at 25% (and probably should have) because I was tired of dull economics lessons.

Instead of making America’s total financial collapse a vague backdrop for her novel, Shriver takes readers through it event by agonizing event. This means that the first third or more of the novel feels like prologue, setting the scene. When she finally gets around to the crux of the matter – the entire extended Mandible family descending on Florence’s small New York City house – it feels like too little plot, too late. At one point I thought we were headed for full-blown The Road territory, as hyperinflation and competition for resources drive New Yorkers to crime. But, to the novel’s detriment, Shriver then leaps ahead about 15 years, looking at the aftermath and taking her few surviving characters to the rogue splinter state of Nevada. I was disappointed the action didn’t go to Jarred’s upstate New York farm instead.

Florence and her son Willing are sympathetic main characters, but Nollie was my favorite player and didn’t show up until the one-third point. A Shriver stand-in, she’s an irascible expatriate novelist dedicated to exercise and her box of manuscripts. Also of note is Luella, the Mandible patriarch’s dementia-addled second wife, who is nicely reminiscent of Bertha Mason. Most of the other characters are odious in one way or another – not that many of Shriver’s characters, whatever the book, can really be described as likeable.

Everything Shriver imagines for the near future, except perhaps the annoying new slang (e.g. “boomerpoop”), is more or less believable. But boy is it tedious in the telling. You might crack a rare smile at Ed Balls being the UK’s prime minister in 2029 or Chelsea Clinton being president in the 2040s – that is, if your eyes haven’t already glazed over from passages of dialogue like the following:

At the moment, foreign demand for US debt is low—but there are completely unrelated reasons for backing off US debt instruments in a variety of different countries that just happen to be coinciding. Here, the market is hopping: investors can find higher yields in the Dow than in dumpy Treasury securities. Interest rates aren’t likely to stay anywhere near 8.2 percent and this is probably a one-time spike. Jesus, in the 1980s, Treasury bond interest careened to over 15 percent. Bonds paid over 8 percent as recently as 1991.

This was my fifth Shriver novel, and possibly my last. She’s getting a little bit too obvious.
Profile Image for Mary Lins.
874 reviews125 followers
July 7, 2016
The Buck Stops

Lionel Shriver's new novel, "The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047" is captivating, and at the same time a humorous and chilling work of speculative fiction. Early on, one of Shiver's characters, in referencing the works: "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "1984", says: "Plots set in the future are about what we fear in the present. They're not about the future at all." Since this particular character turns out to be extremely wrong about a lot of things, I take this as a wink to the reader that Shriver believes that many of her dire predictions about the economic future of the US may indeed become true. We'll see!

"The Mandibles" begins in 2029 (100 years since the "crash" of 1929). In what is later called "The Great Renunciation", the president (who is a "Lat": of Latin descent), calls for the renunciation all US debt and defaults on all foreign debt. Invoking the International Emergency Powers Act of 1977 (it's real), he calls for all gold to be confiscated. Blame is placed on nebulous "hostile foreign" entities who have tried to replace the dollar with the "bancor". The President, in addition to recalling all gold (including jewelry and dental work) from every citizen, has ordered the military to do a door-to-door search for hoarded gold and for those responsible to be fined and imprisoned. In addition, the US has "reset" all US Treasury bonds to zero and inflation has driven the price of a (scarce) head of cabbage up to $30. Some folks are happy that the "uber-rich" or the 1%-ers are falling like dominoes seeing it as finally a way to erase the vast economic disparities. The US starts printing (now almost worthless) money by the truckload, though with the toilet paper scarcity - well, you can imagine what happens.

The novel revolves around the eponymous Mandible family, founded by wealthy grandfather Douglas Mandible aka "Grand Man". His oldest granddaughter, Florence, lives in Flatbush, NY, with her teen-aged son, Willing (no kidding), and her lover Esteban. Florence is highly educated (Barnard) but can only find work processing cases in a homeless shelter. Her son, Willing, is the only one who seems to grasp what is happening to the economy, but of course, no one listens to him - he's just a kid! Florence's younger sister Avery, a pseudo-psychotherapist, is married to Lowell, a professor of economics at Georgetown. They have three children, Savannah, Goog and Bing (yep, named after search engines). Avery is used to the good life and now finds that she can't even afford olive oil. It's a long way down. Lowell has a particularly difficult time accepting the economic realities that don't match up with his economic theories.

Shriver's fictional future is full of interesting and humorous possibilities: Putin is still in power: dictator of Russia. Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for president necessitating the 28th Amendment (requiring the President to be born on American soil) to be nullified. Judge Judy was appointed to the Supreme Court (which made cases much shorter). Also in 2024, the entire infrastructure of the US (electricity, water, The Internet - gasp!) was shut down for three weeks and chaos ensued. China was blamed (no proof ever attained). Journalism is dead - no source can be trusted (I'd say that's already happened). I don't want to give away too many of Shriver's "treats" so that you can savor all the ironies yourself, but one about Mexico and a wall is particularly biting.

Shriver is in her element with her sterling wit, scathing satire, and stunning irony. This is the kind of novel you'll want to talk with people about - so I highly recommend it for any Book Club with nerves of steel, because it's going to stir up some fervent feelings about race, class, money, guns, and trust in the government. It couldn't be coming out at a more auspicious moment in US history!
Profile Image for Leo Robertson.
Author 36 books446 followers
May 26, 2016
Will try and keep it brief.

Five main issues- three big, two small.

1. Previously covered material.
2. Finance.
3. Too many characters
4. Sci-fi.
5. The future of the novel.

1. So Much For That did healthcare, Big Brother did uncomfortable house guests, A Perfectly Good Family did inheritance- all this comes back with weaker insights than before.

2. External forces can be an interesting device if they sometimes enter a story to create havoc: hurricanes, floor opens up to lava pit, asteroid kills lover etc. But here's the thing: the global financial crisis in this book is not the fault of the families detailed within. Bad-to-worse is a legitimate plot structure, but that's not what we have: with bad-to-worse, someone in the narrative is making things worse actively. Some external force creating bad things, the whole time, is dull! What can anyone in the story do about it? Nothing. What did they do to set off the forces? Nothing! Then why the fuck are we with them at all? Hopefully not looking for story, right?
We're at an interesting time in storytelling: stories about contemporary financial fuckery are essential, but nobody knows how to tell them. The Big Short? Minimal detective work at the beginning where one of the characters works out that there will be a financial crisis. Then it happens. Also we follow many characters who, I mean, I don't know: if they don't influence events, there's nothing to follow. And so few storytellers get this. Spotlight did the same thing- interesting events, no story. No story, no film. Plot is not trivial, people! And the thing about The Big Short/ the thing about so many things... *sigh* I feel like the inventions of postmodernism were hard-won imaginative leaps. Things like breaking the 4th wall, like describing the type of story your story is not going to be. The problem is, these things are used by people who don't have hard-won imaginative achievements. In The Big Short, Ryan Gosling looks into the camera and says something like 'You'll see me again later,' when he's in one of the opening scenes, and you're like, 'I must be in safe hands: these storytellers are so confident.' But they pure ain't- they just like the effect of confident storytelling, but they don't have the skill to back it up. Guaranteed someone in a production meeting said "The Wolf of Wall Street meets..." something, right? Whatever. At least The Big Short took the time to explain complicated financial terms to me in an entertaining manner. When Shriver deigned to grace me with some explanation, it was that kinda, 'Hey! If I put it in dialogue, it isn't an essay,' style. Fiction is the one that didn't happen.

3. At some point, a character points out that there are 13 people living in one house (as a result of financial hardship)- this is less than halfway into a 400 page novel. That's not long enough to characterise 13 people enough for me to care about them. "The death of millions is just a statistic" is one of the things novels are fighting against, not something they should give into. That's why there's so many WWII novels, right? All the shit we cannot shart... or something?

4. I'm not that bothered by Shriver's sci-fi naivety, but, yes, this novel is sci-fi. I read some early blurb about this one where it said "This is not Blade Runner." Because of this, and some comment about Ridley Scott in Big Brother, I'm inclined to believe Shriver's last encounter with sci-fi was the original release of Blade Runner. That's fine, I guess. Even I'm learning now how broad a field sci-fi is. But, yeah: this novel takes place from 2029-2047: those haven't happened at time of publication. It's technically sci-fi. But sci-fi doesn't have to mean anything in particular. It doesn't give me any expectations or needs, that label. Any good genre writer (so few) defines what is the genre they write in. Great writers defy expectations: they don't ask for them to be lowered.

5. Who gives a fuck? We should never burden the reader with what I consider a trite footnote relevant only to the occasional writer. I WRITE novels and I don't care (about the future of THE novel. The future of MY novels is bright, innovative and fills me with enthusiasm: therein end my abilities/ responsibilities where THE novel is concerned.) "Future of the novel" was cute when Samuel Delany was writing about it in Nova, in the 60s I think. Cute but still kinda dull.

In this novel, the character Enola is Lionel Shriver. Enola lives to 103. So forget what Shriver thinks about banking. Don't buy her apparent pessimism. She's just like us: where we alone are concerned, we think everything will be rosy. Maybe sometimes it's healthy to have that shaken, but maybe it's an essential component of being alive.

So let's dance.
Profile Image for 7jane.
683 reviews268 followers
May 29, 2019
Music: The Smiths - "Back To The Old House"
(my pinterest page created for this book (SPOILERS): https://fi.pinterest.com/likeskimchi/... )

It's 2029. Five years after 'Stonage', when all electricity was lost for a long time, the US national debt finally wipes out the dollar, causing chaos for years. We follow the story of the Mandible family - already declining family, rich due to some ancestors' engine designs - how it lost pretty much (almost) everything (except some glasses and silver knives), how it survived and how it changed. The book is of two parts - 2029 (and about three years after that), told from a handful of POVs, and 2047 (told from the POV of Willing Mandible (born Darkly)).

It's a story of, and with:
money and economy, how people react to the dollar crash and deal with it long after, all the forms of money, how it changes not just the role of America, but of other countries as well, how the family fortune can disappear and reappear, how the role of money changes relationships within the family even when there's none at all. (This book really makes you think about money more *lol*)
food and drink. Lots of alcohol mentioned, how people deal with food, commit crime to find food, grow their food, make money with food, what the attitudes and skills of people are when it comes to food.
work. How hard do they have to work, how many jobs they need to do, how some jobs grow in importance, how some disappear. Bots (called also 'robs') doing many jobs.
the elderly. Keepers of money, source of work, blamed for miseries, being miserable in poverty after the economic crash, foreign ones being sent to US to be taken care of, ...

The main guy is in my opinion Willing, skillfully surviving the crash, yet broken in 2047, partly because . You really want him to succeed, maybe even more than others.

I loved the term "boomerpoop". And "karmic clumping" (many disastrous things happening like a conga line). Also I made a family tree out of this book, something I like to do sometimes with certain books (Anne Rice's books is another of them). The book did leave me craving to find a clearer picture of the fate of .

There's at least two book shoutouts, in my opinion: Nollie Mandible's book "Better Later Than" titlewise reminds me of Ali Smith's "There But For The"; and one of Lowell Stackhouse's colleagues has a treatise called "The Corrections".

Where things ended was kind of interesting: It's a good, well-deserved ending for the family.

I could see, as I read the book, that this might not be a book for everyone. The economy talk can go over the head, but it doesn't really wreck the reading nor go too descriptive. It takes time to reach the conclusion, but it is worth it. I can see myself reading this again; it worked well for me. In the current state of the world, it fits. And I recommend it. :)
Profile Image for Bill Kupersmith.
Author 1 book202 followers
March 9, 2017
There are so few few books I've dnfed so close to the end, which shows they achieve a special kind of badness. This is one of the most painful books I've ever attempted, the characters are totally flat, moral & spiritual values nonexistent, & every episode uniformly dreary. It's a shame because I expect the author's basic economic and social beliefs are pretty close to mine, & the dystopia she creates (with a 77% rate of income tax and the United States reduced to the level of a third-world country) likely enough. The response of all the characters to their narrow economic straits (spelled 'straights' in this book) is passive & selfish. I kept reflecting that people in Britain between 1940 & 1950 lived @ a greater level of austerity than any of these characters, & saved civilisation in its darkest hour. I had felt guilty that I'd never read a book by Lionel Shriver, especially as she has won distinguished prizes. But on the basis of this book I'd have to conclude she is a total cynic & nihilist.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews599 followers
April 27, 2019
Audiobook.....read by George Newbern....who was animated & great!

“Good Morning, Fellow American’s”......

“Mom, Alvarado is on in a minute”. ( President Alvarado)
“That’s okay, sweetie ( shouting from the kitchen), I’ll watch it later”.

And why didn’t mom want to hear the president speak?
Like many Americans she found Government business & economic details boring .....
Ha.....until it affected her family ‘big time’.

During the State of the union speech - American’s learn that no more than a $100 per family was allowed to leave the country. Temporary...but the right call-to-action in the state of emergency.
The American dollar was worthless. The dollar sliding to the penny had barely been noticeable because the government had been doing the same thing. The world was drowning in worthless paper.

Lionel Shriver’s satire- in part political thriller -
......following an apocalyptic- textured - family- “The Mandibles”, about the apocalyptic economy - was impressive - mostly focusing on the collapse of America in the future.

We meet a full cast of ugly ducklings. There is a fairly large cast of characters - each dealing with decline of the economy in their own way. Only a couple of the characters likable.
Much is funny...but scary funny...
Much was fascinating...but scary fascinating...
Much went over my head...but not so scary....( I simply fell asleep in the parts I didn’t understand)....
But one thing remains constant: there is no romance in poverty!

Frightening how plausible this novel is with shortages of food, toiletries, medicine, housing, employment, internet availability, freedom, and terrorism.

**Note....for those who have been following the news on Elizabeth Holmes: the decline of Theranos....( deceiving investors by massive fraud).... through massive exaggerated claims about the accuracy of her blood testing technology....
I thought about Holmes at one point while listening to this book. The woman with the deep voice who doesn’t blink ....she’s given me the creepy-willies in ways this novel gives us a contextual overview of a broken down society.

Profile Image for Anni.
544 reviews76 followers
March 7, 2020
The following review from 2016 shows how close Shriver's dystopian vision was, in light of the current Coronavirus outbreak - note the prescient toilet roll panic buying!

"Complex systems collapse catastrophically”

I decided to re-read this, the twelfth novel by one of my favourite authors, while reflecting on the current doom-mongering about the state of the world – basically to reassure myself that things could be much, much worse!

In this novel, set in the year 2029, Shriver describes an economic dystopia in the USA, where the collapse of the dollar leads to hyperinflation and the breaking of the social contract by governmental mismanagement.
(However, Shriver's anti-authoritarian inclination is revealed by the neat little touch of including the EU in the economic meltdown: the Union has dissolved and the euro is replaced by local currencies such as the ‘nouveau franc’).

The story follows four generations of the upper middle class Mandible family, once cushioned by inherited wealth, but now facing financial ruin as their fortune is wiped out and everyday living becomes a matter of basic survival. Shriver’s sharp social satire is laced with black humour and irony, sparing no hideous detail in her unflinching depiction of the ‘horrors' that lie in wait: e.g. toilet paper is so scarce that the family must employ re-usable ‘ass-napkins’ instead.

Lionel Shriver has been referred to as the Cassandra of American letters, owing to her prescient speculative fiction – set not too far in the distant future, but with a more immediate dateline which helps to increase the reader’s uneasy feeling of ‘this could happen to me’. I hope she is wrong this time, but nevertheless I am going to stock up on toilet paper!
815 reviews146 followers
July 11, 2016
Lionel Shriver, I decided, is more essayist than novelist. Though I loved loved loved We Need to Talk About Kevin, and I definitely appreciated The Post Birthday World, the rest of her books have felt like glorified and often sanctimonious rants that are frankly annoying to read.
The Mandibles is a finance driven treatise about a new kind of apocalypse - rather than zombies or religious uprising, the new president defaults on America's loans and now there is a scarcity to everything and the whole world loses it. Shriver conveniently has an economics professor cast in her novel as well as a precocious child who knows a lot about, you guessed it, finance, to make sure we can have info dump after info dump to move the plot along. The characters didn't mean all that much to me and so their suffering didn't either.
While Shriver's wit and appreciation of irony were present in the work, this did little to compensate for a slog of contrived dialogue and agenda heavy narrative. The plotline itself often escaped and at times felt rather overblown. I am not sure who the intended audience is here but it sure isn't me.
Profile Image for Sharon.
248 reviews103 followers
January 9, 2018
Lionel Shriver is not for everyone. That said, I need to read more Lionel Shriver.

She's just... my latest girl crush. And one of the most important authors out there when it comes to igniting healthy debate and challenging authority and the status quo. In the four novels I've read of her 13, she's tackled: the U.S. health care system (So Much For That), obesity (Big Brother), the nature vs. nurture debate (the absolutely riveting, 5-star We Need To Talk About Kevin), and now, via the all-too-plausible dystopian The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047: monetary policy and the inefficiency of government.

There is no fairness, just degrees of unfairness.

Shriver's writing is never perfect; it's often unbalanced, and undeniably locked and loaded with an agenda. Certain sections run on too long; I almost put down So Much For That and Big Brother before I was fully won over. And her characters are rarely likable. The Mandibles is probably her most challenging read to date. Coming off more diatribe than story, it needed more story, less lecture, and more finesse weaving in character dialogue between rants. ...oh, but the passion is there. As is her trademark cynicism, wit, shock-value, and dry humor. And the vision.

Shriver paints such a chillingly realistic and Orwellian view of America's economic collapse (in the all-too-near 2029), it was tough to find anything in her story that seemed unbelievable. It's told through the eyes of the Mandible family, who are forced to come to terms with not only losing their inheritance overnight after the dollar loses its value, but in the weeks to follow, not being able to buy groceries, or stay in their home.

Willing. God, I loved 14-year-old Willing. He's like Stewie from Family Guy, wise and slightly diabolical beyond his years. The first to realize the magnitude of what—in essence—is a financial apocalypse, Willing approaches his still-naive mother Florence, volunteering to give his dog to a family moving to Europe, so that they won't be forced to kill it, or set it loose. Whether it be buying a gun, dropping out of school (because they're still teaching algebra instead of how to build a fire or forage for food), or telling his ever-expanding family when it's time to pack up and move on to a safer neighborhood, Willing becomes a soothsayer of sorts, always knowing what's to come, as well as what it will take to survive, no matter how unpleasant.

Because I mentioned Shriver's cynicism (I've yet to stumble upon any pro-government passages in her books), I think it's only fair to say there's also a powerful undercurrent in her novels of the strength of family, and looking after one's own (even in We Need to Talk about Kevin). To me, that helps balance out her bite.

Whether you end up liking this book or hating it (I could see a lot of people hating Shriver; she's got her balls out there way too much to please everyone), you will remember her stories and characters.
Profile Image for Marjorie.
551 reviews57 followers
June 5, 2016
This book tells the tale of the economic collapse in the US in 2029. Cabbage is $20 a head. The robots were once called “bots” but they’ve taken over so many jobs, they’re now called “robs”. Showers are taken once a week to save water. There’s a new global currency, the “bancor”. The US President announces that the government is defaulting on all loans. Banks shut down and accounts are frozen. Inflation is out of control leading to chaos. The government demands that citizens turn over all gold to them. Unfortunately, this whole story is far too believable.

Great Grand Man is 97 years old. The Mandible family (and there are a lot of family members) is waiting for him to die so they can inherit his sizeable fortune. But now not only has that fortune vanished, but they must struggle to survive. A new world is born and the author does a fabulous job of describing the changes. There is a truly chilling scene of the army coming into a home with metal detectors searching for hidden gold, with the threat of prison and a $250,000 fine should they find any. The book takes the family through to 2047 where what’s left of the family ends up in the United States of Nevada.

This is written as a satire and with a dry wit. It’s a very clever book. I chose this book because I thought “We Need to Talk About Kevin” was such a powerful book so I was anxious to read her newest effort. This is a very different type of book. Although I’ve read reviews saying that the book is slow to start, I enjoyed the first quarter of the story very much but by the time I was half way through, I began to lose interest. I thought the book went on far too long and had made its point early on and the rest was just repetitive. The author does such an excellent job in detailing human reaction to these disturbing events that I wish she could have curbed some of the social commentary and long financial lessons that just seemed to bog the book down.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,737 reviews674 followers
January 15, 2018
Here’s another three star novel I have deeply mixed feelings about. Prior to reading ‘The Mandibles’ I came across a review somewhere that faulted it for including too many long conversations about economics. This actually attracted me to it, because long conversations about economics are my jam. Not enough novels include them. It was not the fixation with economics that bothered me about this novel, but its politics. I’ll start with what I enjoyed, though. ‘The Mandibles’ follows the titular family from 2029 to about 2032, then jumps forward to 2047. The majority of the book follows the disintegration of the American economy during this earlier period and its effect on the family. These chapters read like a combination of The Patrick Melrose Novels and Random Acts of Senseless Violence in content, though sadly not in style. The inexorability of the deterioration is conveyed well. There’s a lot of schadenfreude to be gleaned from the more obnoxiously wealthy relatives learning to do without luxuries. Although it’s probably longer that it needs to be, I found the progression of events compelling and the family dynamic entertainingly dysfunctional. Watching their ingenuity being tested by poverty keeps you involved.

What really bothered me about ‘The Mandibles’, though, is that it’s thoroughly right wing. This wasn’t obvious at first, as it ramps up gradually, but by the end Shriver goes full Ayn Rand. The following were either very obvious subtexts, actively discussed by characters, or baldly stated by the omniscient narrator:

- All taxes are oppressive, too high, and inevitably make governments tyrannical.
- Individual entrepreneurship is the solution to all problems.
- Who cares about any country but America.
- Social security is bad, as supporting the vulnerable isn’t necessary or helpful. Either someone will look after them or they’ll die, why should the rest of us care.
- Won’t someone think of the rich people and their high taxes, they’re the real victims here.
- Police are only needed to protect property rights.
- All poor economic management is the fault of democratic presidents (a Latino man then Chelsea Clinton). Republicans don’t seem to exist.
- Climate change and other chronic environmental problems have no effects at all.
- There is no such thing as solidarity or community support during disasters.
- You need a gun to protect you from other people with guns.
- Academic economists don’t actually believe in free markets, they’re all Keynesians.
- Massive economic upheaval spawns no extreme political movements, certainly no neo-Fascism.
- The gold standard should never have been abandoned. Hoarding gold is very important.
- The news is misleading but that’s fine and causes no systemic problems.
- Physical and mental health problems are symptoms of being spoilt. Material deprivation will either cure or kill you, who cares which.

I assure you I am not exaggerating about any of this. I initially wondered if there was a sense of irony at work. If so, I honestly couldn't detect any sign of it. The novel was actually rather fascinating because I rarely read crypto-libertarian dystopian fiction. I wonder if this is genuinely the sort of future that American libertarians expect? I was particularly struck by the narrative’s condemnation of Lowell the economist - not for his faith in markets, but for his faith in government! In my experience, university economics departments are pits of neoliberalism, worshipping the efficiency of markets against all sense and evidence. Keynesians are extremely rare. I found Lowell unsympathetic, as the narrative unsubtly intended, but I thought he was wrong in a different way. The economic catastrophe depicted in ‘The Mandibles’ is rooted in America’s vast international debts, which have got much worse under Republican presidents. It is a structural distortion enabled by globalised neoliberalism. Shriver seems to have a clear grasp of the problem, however the narrative makes it clear that the interventionist policies of a Democratic government turned it into a catastrophe. Some upheavals are the healthy ‘creative destruction’ of free market capitalism apparently, and shouldn’t be interfered with by governments. This is rammed home by the ending in Nevada. (I couldn’t help noticing the lack of comment on Nevada’s government. Is there a president or governor? That wasn't considered important enough to mention, although the flat tax policy was discussed at length.) The whole ethos of the novel is that you should care for your family and fuck everyone else, they can live or die.

It is precisely this poisonous anti-society political tendency that has delivered America to Trump. What really gets up my nose is its extraordinary naivety, especially minimisation of the consequences when society split down axes of race, age, geography, etc. In many ways the America of ‘The Mandibles’ seems much more positive than current reality. There’s no neo-Fascism, no right wing politicians, no evangelical Christians pushing a regressive social agenda, no Russian campaign to manipulate and destabilise the West, no climate change, no rapacious multinational companies (!!!!), no War on Terror, no military-industrial complex (????), somehow racism doesn’t matter anymore, and the president certainly isn't going to start a nuclear war in a fit of pique. Imagine that!

Realising how much I disagreed with the politics of ‘The Mandibles’ was simultaneously comforting and concerning. Comforting because I initially found the depiction of inflation and shortages a plausible scenario for the immediate aftermath of Brexit. By the end of the book, it seemed a lot less convincing. Concerning because the current state of America invites a much worse future than this. Could an economic shock of this magnitude be weathered without the US descending into brutal civil war? Under Trump, I very much doubt it. Although free market economics presents itself as a behavioural science, it isn’t. It is an ideological justification for a set of unequal, unstable, and destructive power relations. The discussions of economics here are thus misleading: they are really about politics. Although I fundamentally disagreed with its entire unpinning philosophy, I enjoyed reading 'The Mandibles' and feel better informed about America for it.
Profile Image for Karen McP.
45 reviews8 followers
March 5, 2016
As always, Shriver's books are challenging, harsh and thought-provoking. I found some of the financial detail a bit hard going, and it's hardly a feel-good book, but it was darkly funny at times and I would recommend.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,930 reviews438 followers
March 26, 2020
I am glad I took accounting classes along with working in the computer lab in college when I pick up books like this! Lionel Shriver, the author of 'The Mandibles', is obviously an intelligent writer who has kept up with current dotcom drawing-board schemes and Kickstarter inventors of new products beyond cellphones and tablets; but this densely written, post-scarcity science-fiction novel about an impoverished 2029-2047 United States is also a great example of a talent to postulate knowledgeably about finance and civic post-disaster planning as well. Not that I am an expert on finance or civic planning beyond 101 classes! My opinions on Shriver's knowledge are based simply on that I can somewhat understand the imagined fictional specifics of the effects of a Wall Street/USA government banking crash.

In 'The Mandibles', we readers follow several branches and generations of an American family for almost two decades after the American dollar collapses on world currency markets in 2029. Like some families today, the 50-ish parents, Carter and Jayne, are well-off in the beginning of the story, while their adult children, Florence, Jarred, and Avery are spread out in several states with their own lives, partners and children. Some of the related characters are poor, while other siblings are almost as wealthy as their parents. The grandparent, Douglas Mandible, is relaxing in an assisted living home, comfortably well off and sitting on the Mandible Fortune. His only sorrow is his second wife, Luella, has dementia.

The various Mandible families and their daily concerns are very similar to how we live now, only they have the use of extrapolated technological marvels which are common household items to them while these electronics are only experimental items on the horizon to us in 2016. For me, the smooth insertions of future technology into the story was the best part of reading the novel.

In the novel people worry about the usual things that are familiar to us in our time. The one exception is the lack of potable water. It is not merely a possibility like it is for us but it is in the book a widespread problem and thus water is expensive. But then a television announcement of a financial catastrophe is broadcast on the news. Only one of the Mandibles, Willing, a young boy of eight, understands dimly that a major disaster has occurred. He is very smart for his age, a fortunate happenstance for the Mandibles, since it only due to his precocious intelligence that the members of the family find a way to live when everything changes for the worst.

This book won't exactly be a page-turner for many mainstream action-genre readers, I think. Those readers whose tastes can encompass all at once a book which can be shelved under the category alternative-future-history/hard-science-fiction/Wall Street finance/social-dystopia/multi-generational-saga might enjoy it. There isn't much thriller action, either.

In my opinion, the story is on the dry side. Perhaps this was because I was unable to connect to any of the characters, who nonetheless, are realistic and charming while they are onstage. I was enchanted by all of the fun tech-toys in the novel that are as common to the year 2029 as tablets and the internet are for us today.

The novel seemed a little bit like The Shape of Things to Come to me, an H. G. Wells story which was an alternative-speculative-future-history from 1933 to 2106, but with more warmth.
Profile Image for KMO.
37 reviews17 followers
September 6, 2016
This is easily the best novel that I've read this year. You probably know the story in broad strokes. In one sense, it's a renegade economics textbook presented in the form of a novel with brilliantly realized characters. In another sense, it's a form of doomer porn, or to use the author's own coinage, it's an example of "apocalyptic economics."

I don't think this is necessarily a prophetic book. The eventual economic melt-down of the USA might not result from a cabal of competitor nations cooking up a replacement reserve currency with the USA defaulting on its debt in retaliation. There are many failure modes for our unsustainable economic arrangements, but the form of disaster that Lionel Shriver chose to dramatize is one in which the meltdown is both obvious and proceeds slowly enough that the people who haven't yet lost their jobs, their savings and their homes can pretend that the country is just going through a "rough patch" and that things will bounce back pretty soon.

The book can't be everything. The author chooses to have her characters struggle to stay ahead of an adjustable rate mortgage and buy groceries in the context of hyperinflation. If your main doomsday fixation is debt deflation and the "welshing" of wealth out of existence, this book won't be your bible. Goldbugs, libertarians and white nationalists will find plenty here to validate their worldviews, but, ultimately, this doesn't feel like a book with an ideological axe to grind because, above all, it is an expertly executed novel populated with characters who I imagine will be with me for months or years to come.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,822 reviews1,382 followers
December 3, 2020
Dystopian novel – based on a crisis for the American economy. After the US struggles to meet an auction of treasury bonds, a consortia of countries (lead by China and Russia but including many previous allies of America) announce the (apparently pre-planned) formation of a new global reserve currency – the bancor backed by a range of valuable commodities. The American president (their first Latino President) decides to declare a (doomed) economic war on the rest of the globe and announced drastic capital controls, a seizure of all gold and “resets” the national debt, wiping out all treasuries overnight – economic collapse follows.

The story focuses on the Mandible’s family. The paterfamilias Grandfather (now living in a luxury retirement home with his prematurely demented younger wife) holds the unknown (but assumed) vast family trust fund from previous generations industrial wealth. His son Carter is now in his 70s – his dreams of inheriting that wealth while he can still enjoy it fading while he still regularly visits his father. His sister Nollie is a successful author in exile (largely from her mother – Carter’s ex-wife) in Paris. Carter has three children. Avery lives in a prosperous Washington home with her dandyish economics professor husband Lowell (a traditional Keynesian who is convinced that the economic crisis will quickly fade) and her three children – the already world wise Savannah, the confident and greedy Bing and the eager to please Google. Florence is living even pre-crisis in much closer to hand to mouth poverty (in a world where meat, water and jobs are already scarce resources) working in a homeless shelter, living with a Hispanic mountain tour guide and with a preciously and economically aware son Willing (the only character who seems to understand immediately what is happening and how things will develop). Jarred is the family black sheep – and takes some money to buy a basic farmstead.

A provocative book – with a chilling but compelling plausible dystopian scenario. The key drawback of the book is that much of the convincing economic detail of the scenario (which includes lots of additional nice touches – for example a Mexico open to the bancor erecting fences to keep out white Americans) is set out in lengthy exposition by either Lowell or the (unconvincingly prescient character) of Willing – but nevertheless a very interesting and enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Britta Böhler.
Author 8 books1,910 followers
June 15, 2016
Sometimes a bit (too) heavy on the economics Shriver wants to get across, but the story is inventive. Satirical and quite funny at times. And above all, in typical Shriver-fashion, an unusual view on the ethics of the economical crisis it portrays: the good guys are not so 'good' after all...

All in all, not the best Shriver-novel, but worth a read nevertheless.
Profile Image for Isheeka.
142 reviews1 follower
August 4, 2016
I got up to page 332 which is more than this book deserves. It's very boring, and full of dull and stilted dialogue about finance. Just as it got interesting and some actual plot happened, the book leapt forward in time! The characters are a snooze too, and Shriver's 'slang' is lame (uncruel? boomerpoop? roachbar?). And there was a bunch of racism in there that I don't think can be justified.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
1,129 reviews56 followers
May 8, 2016
I was so pleased to have won a copy of 'The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 in a recent Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.

This was a very enjoyable read, even though it took me a while to finish. It was the kind of book that I preferred to read when sitting in my library room alone, when family were not around. It is the first time that I have any of Lionel Shriver's books and will now be on the lookout for more. Recommended.

Profile Image for Juliet.
37 reviews2 followers
August 8, 2016
Absolutely brilliant. The author writes with great wit and humor about a fictional family, the Mandibles, in the year 2029. I would describe this novel as semi-post-apocalyptic: the US is facing a crisis caused by the lack of faith in the very foundation of its financial system. The US government defaults on all its debt and orders all gold to be recalled, the dollar is essentially worthless and replaced by the 'bancor' as the globally preferred currency, and inflation grows so rampant that a head of cabbage is $20 one week and $30 the next. The Mandibles, who used to live as part of the 1%, lose all of their fortune, and it is both entertaining and alarming to watch how each of the colorful characters adapt and survive in the new environment. The novel is filled with amusing and chilling scenarios: the entire US infrastructure was shut down and chaos ensues, China is blamed, Judge Judy sits on the Supreme Court, Jon Stewart runs for president, there is a Chelsea Clinton administration, and so many other fun bits... Lionel Shriver is ingenious. She writes with scathing wit, irony, and an unparalleled sense of observance. She touches upon every topic, from race to poverty to class to money to big government, and through her characters, cuts to the core of what makes us human: our flaws. What makes this story so disturbing is that the foundation of everything that happens is very real (there is a wall between the US and Mexico, and it is used to keep impoverished Americans out!), which makes it all the more relevant to what is going on in the world today.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,807 reviews795 followers
February 23, 2019
At times this book was incredibly interesting and at other times it was excruciatingly boring. I’d honestly say it was about 50/50 and that definitely did make it a bit of a tough read to get through. But ultimately I do think it was worth it because the idea of the story is incredibly fascinating. Imagine if it were really to happen, the dollar suddenly being worthless and everyone has lost everything? How quickly everything would collapse? It’s quite a terrifying thought and that’s definitely what kept me reading. What made it so boring was the laser focus on the economics side for about half the book, almost all of it went over my head and that spoiled it a bit for me.
Profile Image for Charlotte Achelois.
33 reviews7 followers
March 15, 2021
Ever get stuck at a cocktail party with that really smart person who became a fanatical Ayn Rand acolyte in college? Did it feel like she was hitting you over the head with the collected works of F.A. Hayek?

She wasn't interested in considering your opinion, either. She just wanted to convert you to The Truth That The World Is Too Feckless To Grasp! The Rank Foolishness Of Abandoning the Gold Standard! Taxation Is Oppression! Liberty Or Death!

And, of course, How Wicked Socialist Programs Such As Medicare Suck The Life Out Of The Strivers And Winners Among Us (naturally, you and me) And Give The Fruits Of Our Toil To The Lazy Parasitical Masses?

And how all of this means Utter Ruin Is Right Around The Corner? (No, not that corner, the one over there. No, over there. Just out of sight. Trust me. It'll happen! Just you wait!)

That's the underlying premise of this book. Just like "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged," Shriver populates her book with political rants masquerading as characters. There are the Virtuous Few (who embrace unalloyed libertarian politics) and the Lazy Masses (who don't). The Lazy Masses get what's coming to them, and as the world collapses, the Virtuous Few assemble in some far-off location (Nevada, this time) to create an Edenic, prelapsarian society based on the near abolition of government and taxation. That one of the villains of the story is named "Krugman" should give you an idea of the author's politics. As Constance Grady wrote in Vox, "The book is a fairly straightforward conservative-libertarian nightmare."

Lionel Shriver is a gifted writer. She creates a frightening image of a disintegrating society. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, the collapse comes slowly at first, then all at once. Yet the narrative is merely the vehicle for the development of debunked economic ideas, such as the belief that fiat money (that is, money that is not backed by gold) will inevitably inflate its value away until it's worthless. So-called "hard money" enthusiasts have been predicting this since the days of President William McKinley. But why let more than a century of failed predictions undermine your quasi-religious faith in a thoroughly discredited theory? When Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day," she meant that tomorrow was another day for her foolish beliefs to be proven true. For many, a burning desire for vindication doesn't die hard—it just doesn't die, not ever, no matter how hard it collides with reality.

Anyone who's made it even halfway through "Atlas Shrugged" knows within the first fifty pages exactly where this plot is headed. The doomsayers will get to say, "Nyah, nyah, I told you so!" while the knaves will be made to wear sackcloth, sit in ashes, and gnash their teeth, all the while clutching their worthless fiat currency. This, I could easily laugh off. What literally made me send the book butterflying across the room into the corner was Shriver's repugnant depiction of Black people—or should I say, person. We meet many people in this dystopian America, yet curiously, only one of them is Black. In Shriver's narrative, she is a sociopathic golddigger who develops early-onset dementia. We never know her as a human being, because by the time she's introduced, she's lost all of her higher cognitive function and behaves like a dog. The white characters in the book deal with this by putting her on a leash so she doesn't get into mischief. (No, really.)

Thus, in Shriver's world, the white characters bravely negotiate one crisis after another, while the one Black character in the book is treated like a dog—quite literally. The whites take action, and the Black woman is acted upon. The whites are the subject; the Black woman, merely an object. Like a dog, she is entirely dependent on her masters. But unlike a dog, she contributes nothing to their survival. She lived undeservedly off her husband's money before she became sick. And now that she's lost her mind, she's an even greater burden. Either way, she's a parasite. Indeed, Shiver makes her an impediment to the very survival of those plucky white people wasting their precious time and resources on this Black woman's continued existence. She has become what the Nazis used to call "life unworthy of life" (German: Lebensunwertes Leben). Such characterizations bolster the racist dog-whistles that have been used to promote libertarian and conservative ideas for generations: whites are the Makers, and Blacks are the Takers, so why should your tax dollars go to social programs that encourage laziness and devalue hard work? The truth, of course, is that Black people have to work twice as hard to survive in a society that promotes such racist depictions of Black people.

I am drawn to apocalyptic fiction because the threat of societal collapse is real. We could get hit by an asteroid. We could stumble into nuclear war. But it will not come because we "abandoned" the gold standard ninety years ago. Warren Buffett, the greatest investor of our times, properly ridiculed the "gold bugs" and their obsession with a shiny little rock: "Gold gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.” How true. He might have added that our obsession with gold fuels the immense profits of precious-metal cartels such as DeBeers, who—in exchange for a pittance—consign their African miners to a life underground that is nasty, brutish, and too often, very short.

Outside of the perfervid imaginations of right-wing polemicists such as Shriver, government is not the threat. Indeed, it may be our last, best hope to prevent runaway climate change. Yet even modest attempts to curb gigatons of yearly carbon emissions have been kneecapped by the very anti-government rhetoric she inspires and promotes. In a supreme irony, no doubt lost on the author, societal collapse may be coming not despite her efforts, but—at least in part—because of them. Politicians such as Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan openly ascribed their hostility to government from the revolution of thought begun by Ayn Rand and her acolytes, such as Milton Friedman. The fossil-fuels industry gleefully adopted this reflexive hostility to government and deployed it in defense of their bottom line. Through "think tanks" such as the Heartland Institute, oil majors such as Exxon-Mobil spend hundreds of millions successfully promoting the idea that any action to curb climate change is anathema to "freedom," even as they receive billions in subsidies from the taxpayer year after year.

I wanted to enjoy this book. Shiver's writing is engaging. She knows how to create a narrative arc that compels you to keep turning the pages—at least until you're too appalled by the know-nothing economic theories and the rank racism to continue. And yet, millions are quite convinced that money will soon be worthless, and power and wealth with be denominated solely in guns and gold. They're the ones who will read this book as a cautionary tale, not as pure fantasy. But the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters storming the Capitol are only symptomatic of the larger disease of the embrace of unreality by nearly half the American people. Lost in their right-wing worlds of make-believe, the Colonel Jessups of the world tell us we can't handle the truth, but they have it precisely wrong: they can't handle the truth. The polar ice cap is disappearing, and each year is hotter than the last, or nearly so. But you wouldn't know it from watching One America News Network, or reading the latest "Q-drop" posted on some shadowy corner of the internet. Talk to your neighbor. Don't be surprised if he tells you government is the enemy, all the while waving a book like this in your face.

Make no mistake, Shriver and her ideas are the real threat to society's continued existence. You've been warned.
Profile Image for P..
462 reviews114 followers
August 17, 2016

I’ve long waited to read Lionel Shriver and the recent release of The Mandibles presented me the perfect opportunity to start working on her oeuvre. Having just finished reading it, I’m still gasping for my breath. It feels as though I’m back from a particularly arduous underwater expedition. But I’m “immense” glad I read it. If I were Willing or any other character from the book, I’d describe it as “Malicious”.

The Mandibles is stratospherically ingenious and a particularly heavy read. It took me almost 3 days to finish it – despite its comparatively shorter length of around 430 pages. It is loaded with information and a slow assimilation could be the only way for you to enjoy it. Information overload isn’t the only reason for perusal – Shriver’s language simply isn’t meant for careless reading. Skimming through The Mandibles would only leave you exasperated. It is the kind of book that demands your absolute attention. For all its heaviness, it is extremely rewarding. It is easily among the ten best books I’ve read this year.

As you might have known already, Mandibles is set in a financial dystopia. But it successfully escapes from most of the traps/clichés that usual dystopian tales succumb to. It is immense rich in characters, originality, inventiveness, brilliance, wit, language, emotions - the list goes on. Of all the things, I was very surprised to find it funny. You’d never expect to laugh until your stomach hurts while reading your regular dystopian fiction. It is easily one of the funniest books I’ve read.

Mandibles has a formidable bunch of characters most of whom I loved – something that has never happened before. Some of my favorites: Willing obviously, Nollie, Bing & GGM. Every character is bustling with some idiosyncrasy that makes it hard for you to not fall in love. I found Willing’s character to be startlingly unique and a joy to read.

One warning though: this book has more than a fair share of economical information, only natural as it is set in a financial dystopia. But some people may be overwhelmed by all the pecuniary talk. Most of the concepts discussed were pretty high-fi and though I tried real hard to follow the economics, I couldn’t understand half of what was being discussed.

The only thing that pricked me while reading Mandible was the disturbingly casual racism. Though you can’t blame the dialogue exchange between characters, the whole story gives off an anti-Asian vibe. Shriver has basically inverted what’s happening in today’s world and labelled it as dystopia for America. By inversion, I mean the role reversal between Asia & US in the book. All Asian countries are portrayed to have their manufacturing plants in USA, not giving a damn about the American environment/people; Asian countries fight to claim control over foreign countries; headquarters of all the famous organizations are moved to Asia; etc. The reverse being the universal truth now (almost for every dystopian condition mentioned in the book, the role reversal holds true).

The Mandibles has every ingredient for the perfect novel – characters, language, humor, setting, concepts, ideas – and reading it is one awesome experience. An ultimately satisfying & riveting affair that’s guaranteed to leave you yearning for more. Go for it. Because it’s rare to find a gem like this one.
Profile Image for Doug Dosdall.
259 reviews2 followers
September 26, 2016
This book is an interesting read albeit with some problems. Unlike many of the reviewers I didn't object to the economic details per se but instead found the concept of a post-apocalyptic novel purely based on a crisis caused by loss of collective faith in the financial system fascinating. Humanity doesn't need zombies, an asteroid or a plague to fall apart, the ingredients are really already there. That said I found the core principles here a little off-putting, at times it seems like the author is suggesting that the right wing nut jobs who want to go back to the gold standard and cut all social spending are correct. Is Shriver a Ron Paul style libertarian in real life? No idea. It's also tough to write a novel of the near future, as it is difficult not to argue with her future predictions at times since they're just round the corner. One of my favorite things was the details of the language. Shriver invents a new slang vocabulary for her society based on her imagined events and it has a very natural ring to it. Lots to ponder in this book so 4 stars for making me think, 3 for characters and plot and 4 for the inventive language.
Profile Image for Maureen.
1,098 reviews7 followers
June 29, 2016
This book dragged. It got bogged down in tirades and treatises and pontification.

But what a concept! The US economy implodes. It is the poor cousin instead of the rich uncle. Economic order breaks down completely, and law and order soon follow, but only in the US.

The story follows members of a family waiting for the obscenely rich patriarch to die, and then all of a sudden the emperor has no clothes, or money, or assets. They adapt in different ways.
You won't read an economic diatribe or hear about the national debt again without thinking, "What if..."
Profile Image for Brown Girl Reading.
356 reviews1,576 followers
November 9, 2018
I think I would have liked this if it would have been minus all the financial detailed discussions. That part was boring and basically wound up putting me in a reading funk. I'm just glad it's over but so sad that this was my first Lionel Shriver. I probably should have just started with We Need to Talk About Kevin. Oh well.
Profile Image for Helen.
513 reviews31 followers
May 27, 2017
Ms Shriver hasn't disappointed me yet and I was glued to this very scary book about the crash of the American economy. I don't think anyone could fail to see this as a real possibility. Dropped a point for the slightly lack lustre closing chapters but read it if you can.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 24 books1,324 followers
January 31, 2023
2023 reads, #12. I read this on the recommendation of one of my freelance clients, in that his own dystopian day-after-tomorrow thriller was partly inspired by this one, plus of course I'm just a sucker for dystopian day-after-tomorrow thrillers to begin with. Shriver is a lit-fiction veteran with 18 novels now in her oeuvre, most of which are obscure MFA titles with only tiny audiences; the reason her name may sound familiar is because of the one and only big hit so far of her career, 2003's school-shooter psychological character drama We Need to Talk About Kevin, the winner of that year's prestigious Orange Prize and then adapted into a Hollywood movie with Tilda Swinton that itself was a multiple award winner.

Here Shriver is taking on a much bigger subject, which is showing exactly how a prosperous industrialized nation like the US could in fact devolve in the space of a mere decade into a lawless third-world country with no infrastructure to speak of. Shriver has mentioned in interviews that she wanted this to be the most realistic look possible at how such a thing could happen (as one of her characters astutely says in the book, science-fiction is never really about predicting the future, but rather commenting on the present); and so that makes this novel both queasily thrilling and nerve-wrackingly terrifying, in that every single plot development is based on a real thing that has actually happened in real-world America in the last couple of decades, only cranked up one or two notches and with no last-minute reprieve or savior that has (so far) allowed all of us in the 21st century to wipe our brow and give a huge sigh of relief every time one of these issues has reared its ugly head out in real life. For example, the event that starts this crisis is China giving the US a "margin call," suddenly demanding that we pay back the trillions of dollars that the country has loaned us over the years, feeling empowered after recently becoming the official biggest economy (and largest military) in the world; then when it becomes clear that the US neither has the money to pay off its national debt nor even particularly cares about doing so, the rest of the world suddenly devalues the US dollar as its main international form of currency and refuses to accept it as payment for anything, leading to a currency crash and hyperinflation situation much like Germany in the 1920s, where a loaf of bread at Whole Foods costs $20 on a Monday, then suddenly $50 on Tuesday, then up to $100 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, under a far-left administration that happens to include the first-ever Latinx President in American history, the White House is still so obsessed with social-justice issues that they essentially ignore the economy altogether (a very telling moment is when Congress debates whether or not to change all federal government forms to Spanish, since Latinx people now technically make up over 50% of the American population, at the same time that most of America's police go on strike because their government-issued paychecks keep bouncing); and meanwhile, all the upper-middle-classers keep talking about how things are bound to get better if the unwashed, uneducated, mouth-breathing masses will just remain calm, while all the poor people are positively giddy over the destruction of these upper-middle-classers' wealth, most of them not realizing that it will only be a matter of a few more months before all that vanished money will result in basically a collapse into violent anarchy for everyone, a slow-motion "gentle apocalypse" that Shriver deliciously doles out in infinitely clever, infinitely nauseating detail. (And don't worry if you're confused -- another clever detail here is Shriver including a 16-year-old autistic son in our title family who basically acts like a walking Wikipedia, explaining to readers the actual real issues being discussed in this fictional novel, and why taking these issues for granted like we do [for example, why going off the gold standard is actually the worst thing the US has ever done in its entire history] will inexorably lead to the society-collapsing disaster our Mandibles live through over these 400-odd pages.)

Needless to say, I luuurved this book, although in a wrist-slashingly depressing way that makes me never want to read it or even think about it again, which of course officially makes me one of those millions of middle-classers with their head in the sand that has helped cause all these problems in the first place. It comes strongly recommended in this spirit, as a cautionary tale about all the bad things that can happen under such seemingly innocuous attitudes like, "A prosperous country like America can ring up as much debt as it possibly wants to with no repercussions whatsoever." A tough but great read like this will show you in graphic, infuriating detail exactly what can happen under that kind of attitude, so please understand in advance that you're in for a pretty harrowing tale here indeed.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews158k followers
June 23, 2016
Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) is back with a fantastic near-future novel about the effects of an economic collapse on four generations of a once-prosperous family. The Mandibles have always relied on the sizable family fortune, but when the U.S. engages in a bloodless war that wipes out the nation’s finances, they must scramble to make ends meet, igniting old rivalries and jealousies.
Backlist bump: The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books: http://bookriot.com/category/all-the-...
Profile Image for Judy.
187 reviews15 followers
August 18, 2016
This was almost a five for me. I almost put it down early on because of the sheer volume of information used to set up this world and this family. I'm glad I didn't. I ended up loving the family and it's dynamics and her near future world was fascinating.
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