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Among the Ten Thousand Things
336 pages; Random House
Finding out that your spouse has been having an affair is painful enough; finding out when one of your young children drops off a box full of printed extramarital sex chats is another order entirely. Julia Pierpont’s bracing debut novel opens with this explosive revelation, as former dancer Deborah struggles to keep her life and psyche together when she learns—via her daughter—that her artist-husband, Jack, has been cheating on her with an art student. Pierpont thoughtfully captures Deb’s devastation, which is all the more wrenching when pitted against Jack’s arrogant rationalizations. (“The girl was a channel that let him be a better man at home.”) But Pierpont is especially skilled at entering the minds of the two children unwittingly caught in the mess: 15-year-old Simon, who’s entering his own sexual coming-of-age, and 11-year-old Kay, who is suffering the taunts of school bullies for her geekiness, which includes writing Seinfeld fan fiction. Deb escapes with the kids for a supposedly restorative summer in Rhode Island, while Jack heads to Arizona to pursue a painting commission; but, the blast radius of their actions and insecurities is wider than the continental United States, and Pierpont's killer ending reveals the long reach of the affair’s consequences (sorry, no plot spoilers). Consider this a twisty, gripping story—that packs an emotional wallop.
— Mark Athitakis