The Mandibles are a complex family
Perched at the top of the family tree is the obscenely wealthy aging patriarch and his second wife, who live a life of luxury in an assisted living home for the richest of the rich. They spend their days admiring their collection of first editions in their library and enjoying the fruits of their wealth.
Next branch down is the doting son who bites his tongue while longing for his inheritance to come to fruition, and the distant daughter who wrote a scathing ‘fictitious’ expose on her wealthy family before relocating to Paris.
Then there are two grandchildren and their spouses – each of whom have chosen vastly different lives. One couple is an ivy league economics professor and a fancy therapist, while the other is a homeless shelter worker and migrant laborer. And on the final rung of the tree are each couples two children each (two of which are called ‘Bing’ and ‘Goog’ respectively, which is a harrowing vision of the future indeed).
The novel follows the plight of the Mandibles when a catastrophic economic event wipes the US dollar off the global stage. We’re talking about complete and utter economic collapse. With their wealth gone, the Mandibles have to learn to survive in the USA turned upside down. Homelessness and unemployment skyrockets alongside inflation. Any job that is not critical to keeping society functioning grinds to a halt and with that, people’s self-worth is destroyed. Starvation, theft, violence… within a few years the USA becomes unrecognizable.
This was a harrowing read at this point in history, where inflation is set to hit 7% by end of year. Obviously the plight of the Mandibles is a worst-case scenario, but still… yikes.
Shriver always strikes at the heart of serious ‘what if?’ issues and doesn’t quit. Her characters’ long soliloquies to unpack complex economic theories might be tiring and sanctimonious to others, but I enjoyed them. I learned a lot in this novel and will keep those lessons in mind as I try to better diversify my investments..! Things do get a bit squirrelly towards the end, but I was still glad I finished this terrifying tome.
Overall, 3 illicit golden goblets out of 5.