The Altruists by Andrew Ridker
Penguin Random House: 3/5/19
eBook review copy; 320 pages
The Altruists by Andrew Ridker is a very highly recommended
debut novel about a dysfunctional family struggling after the death of
their wife and mother.
Alter relocated his family, wife Francine and children Ethan and
Maggie, from Boston to St. Louis after accepting the non-tenured
position of engineering professor at Danforth University in St. Louis.
While he was sure he would eventually become a tenured professor, it
never happened. Francine is the person who keeps the family together and
it is her income, as a family and
couples therapist, that helps supports the family and pay for the mortgage on the large house Arthur wanted.
Francine died from cancer two years earlier and left her children a
large inheritance - money Arthur knew nothing about. Ethan and Maggie
are still reeling from the death of their mother and haven't seen their
father since. Arthur started an affair with a much younger professor
while Francine was dying, an affair Francine, Ethan, and Maggie all knew
about. Now Ethan and Maggie are both currently living in New York City.
Maggie is a recent college graduate. She is striving to do good things
for her neighbors and lives a life of self-imposed poverty, to the point
of starving herself. Ethan, 31, left his consulting job, is a recluse and was living off his inheritance, but is now deep in debt. His father never understood him.
Now, after not talking to his children for two years, Arthur, 65, has
a scheme he needs to put into action that involves the help of his
children. Arthur is going to lose the house to foreclosure because he
can't afford the mortgage, but if he can get his children to use their
inheritance to pay off the mortgage, then he and his girlfriend can move
into the house. To put his plan into action, he writes to Ethan and
Maggie, inviting them to come home for a visit, but his ploy doesn't go
exactly as he planned.
These are all memorable characters and readers will become
well-acquainted with Francine, Arthur, Ethan, and Maggie.
Francine is clearly the glue that holds this novel (and family)
together. Without her, everyone is self-involved and clueless. There are
moments where their actions or Arthur's obvious schemes to play on
sentiments are so off-the-mark or awkward, that it is both humorous and
yet poignant. Ridker succeeds in presenting the narrative with wit,
compassion, insight, and depth, making these flawed characters human.
The Altruists is an exceptionally well-written family saga. This
outstanding, complex, and compelling novel is a page-turner that will
hold your attention throughout. Both the quality of the writing and the
character development are excellent, resulting in a intricate, dynamic,
insightful, and perceptive debut novel. Chapters presents everyone's
point-of-view, including Francine's, and include flashbacks and the
backstory of the four family members.This novel is a pleasure to read
and makes Ridker a novelist to watch.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.