Lionel Shriver does for the American economy in this book what she did for parenthood in We Need to Talk About Kevin, which is to say I’m going to go huddle in the corner and hope that this is far-fetched even though it’s written so matter-of-factly I know it isn’t. One of the cover blurbs puts it best: “if Jodi Picoult has her finger on the zeitgeist, Shriver has her hands around its throat.”
Shriver is one of the authors that gets an automatic add to my “to read” list any time I see her, but man are her books accidental-front-facing-camera-picture level harsh truths. She’s a remarkable writer for crafting characters she’s willing to give actual flaws to even when she obviously sympathizes with them.
There are plenty such in The Mandibles – the book follows several generations of the Mandible family, the second oldest of which stand to inherit significant wealth upon their patriarch’s death, but unfortunately, the American economy dies first. You read about inflation rendering German currency more valuable as kindling than in exchange for goods, but it seems so alien as to be unrelatable; Shriver takes each step of the demolition of the US dollar seem so logical and plausible that it doesn’t even feel like it’s set in the near-future. I suspect her giving her characters such unusual names is a concession to the reader – see, this isn’t happening now! It’s the future – the characters are named after search engines! You don’t have to worry. Which is possibly the kindest Shriver has ever been to her audience.
It’s not a warm and fuzzy book, but it’s definitely worth reading.