Written by Lionel Shriver, the author behind We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Mandibles dives into dystopian Brooklyn and what would happen if the American economy collapsed. It’s a look into the future that will give you a lesson in economics and the real consequences that actions today could cause.
Naturally, we all had some thoughts about it and needed to talk them out.
Britt: Okay, let’s all fess up. Who read the book?
Andrea: I read it in the summer, which is a big reason I suggested it tbh 🐵
Morgan: I tried, guys, I really did. I know I wanted to start a book club. I know I pushed book club back one week to finish, but I only read one quarter of the book.
Jamie: I read six pages. But, in my defense, I did spend an hour Googling Lionel Shriver and then rewatched We Need to Talk About Kevin and proceeded to spend another hour Googling Tilda Swinton.
Britt: Googling Tilda Swinton is a pretty good excuse. I’ll admit I really struggled through the first quarter of it. I didn’t love or hate any of the characters so it was hard for me to get all that invested in them.
Danielle: I started and finished this book, but only because I didn’t want to be the only one at book club who didn’t read the book. It was a shame read.
Morgan: At least I’m not the only one. I feel like if I kept reading, I would have had a soft spot for Willing. What happens to Willing?
Danielle: Willing is the hero. He follows his heart, but not before losing his dignity. If you really want to know what that means, READ THE BOOK 🙂
Britt: How about all that economics talk? Too much, just enough? It was kind of hard for me to digest at times.
Morgan: IT’S ALL THERE WAS! At least in the first 134 pages. Everyone else had to look up what a bancor was, right? Not just me?
Andrea: I thought the economics 101 was going to kill me, especially the way character conversations were used to teach those lessons, but I actually found it interesting by the end.
Britt: There was one line that stood out to me near the beginning of it – “Plots set in the future are about what we fear in the present. They’re not about the future at all.” They were talking about books like 1984, but I liked that nod to the book itself. And also hello 2017.
Danielle: I screenshotted that page! It totally described why Lionel Shriver wrote the book. If you read that page, you understood the purpose of the book. Morgan, did you get there?
Morgan: To be honest, I was totally into the book’s futuristic dystopian theme, but all the economic and fiscal mumbo-jumbo didn’t captivate my attention. Did it move on from the stocks, bonds, and hyperinflation talks after page 134?
Gabriella: I LOVED the the economic and fiscal mumbo-jumbo. But I read stuff like that. I’m a nerd.
Danielle: It definitely became more emotional as the book went on, but overall it did feel like an economics lesson. An absolutely terrifying one.
Gabriella: I didn’t really connect to the characters emotionally at all. But I didn’t mind – I don’t think that was the point. They were just there to show the different ways that people might react in that situation. I think I related most to Avery. She was determined to maintain a sense of affluence and dignity for as long as possible. But it did make me think twice about buying stuff.
Morgan: To your point, Britt, it was interesting to pinpoint similarities between today’s United States and Lionel’s 2029 – 2047 version. What do you think are the most accurate predictions she made?
Danielle: It was interesting because the book was written before the Trump presidency and it felt like a critique of our political trajectory at the time – what would happen if our policies keep moving further to the left without the pendulum swinging back to the centre (or all the way to the right, as it really did)? At this point, it seems like we’re even closer to a Mandible’s reality, but for totally opposite reasons predicted by the book.
Britt: Throughout the book, Lionel Shriver tried to create her own slang of the future. How did we feel about this? I wasn’t totally sold on it myself, but then again it’s probably pretty difficult to invent future slang.
Morgan: Imagine I called you a boomerpoop? I could have used a glossary for the economic phrases.
I feel like we’re inventing slang every day. We should do it for our office, like back in grade five when you made up your own code language. The word on the street is that kids are saying “avocado” now instead of “basic.” Like, “that girl is so avocado.” Maybe Lionel was onto something with boomerpoop.
Gabriella: I agree. Maybe in a movie with good actors they could have convinced me of the slang. But made up slang is awkward.
Danielle: I loved how all of the slang was more hyperbolic than it is today. It made me rethink my use of “sick” as a positive adjective.
Also, I’m so upset that avocado is now basic.
Britt: It was interesting to me that a book about things falling apart in the future didn’t require a crazy asteroid or a zombie apocalypse or anything very otherworldly and that’s the scariest part, really.
Morgan: True. I guess that’s why people find it so fascinating. Can someone tell me what happened?
Gabriella: Exactly. That’s how things happen in real life. Most species go extinct gradually because circumstances in their environment change.
Danielle: I can’t provide spoilers in a book review. That just wouldn’t be fair to anyone reading this.
Britt: So, would you recommend it?
Morgan: I’m going to give it to my dad to read. He’s retired and looking for a hobby.
Danielle: I think reading things that make you uncomfortable is a good thing. That being said, the ending was really disappointing so if I did recommend it I would preface my recommendation with that disclaimer.
Andrea: I bitched and moaned a lot while actually reading it. But once I finished it, it really stuck with me, and I kept thinking about the story and what happened and how it relates to today. So for that reason, yes, I would recommend it (and did, to you guys lol)
Next up for Eighty-Eight’s book club is Startup by Doree Shafrir. Grab a copy and read along with us!