Reviews > Published on July 6th, 2015

Bookshots: 'Among the Ten Thousand Things' by Julia Pierpont

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Among the Ten Thousand Things

Who wrote it?

Julia Pierpont, a Brooklyn-based writer who works for The New Yorker. She received her MFA at NYU as a Stein and Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellow. (She’s also pretty great on Twitter.) This is her debut novel.

... a drama-filled debut worth taking with you to the beach this summer.

Plot in a Box:

The Shanley family breaks apart after a package of printed emails and messages arrive at their Manhattan apartment from the father’s ex-mistress.

Invent a new title for this book:

Things You Learned Early

Read this if you like:

Domestic dramas and Jennifer Egan.

Meet the book’s lead(s):

The Shanley Family, an affluent family of four living in Manhattan. Jack, the father, is a self-involved conceptual artist, and Deb, the mother, is an ex-Ballerina turned dance teacher.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett, recreating their magic from Blue Jasmine.

Setting: would you want to live there?

Someone else’s sizeable Manhattan apartment … for free? We all know the answer to that one. (Texas and Rhode Island sound pretty cool too.)

What was your favorite sentence?

Falling in love is just an excuse for bad behavior.

The Verdict: 

The decisions we make can differ when we realize we’re serving as role models. We may even treat ourselves better that way.

Among the Ten Thousand Things would have been a completely different novel if Deb, the mother, had been the first to find the letters from her husband’s affair. His tendency to wander isn’t news to her, she’s already well aware. What changes is that her 11-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son have read the evidence—“show me your cunt”—without the niceties or excuses. They have seen cheating in its most vulnerable confessions: “I can’t explain why i get so sad when you make me so happy.

Pierpont’s entertaining debut is a domestic drama that investigates the way family evolves after being fragmented. When the novel isn’t tackling life’s questions about time, loyalty, and loneliness, it’s sprinkled with humor, like the youngest Shanley daughter’s Seinfeld fan fiction (a highlight of the book that rivals Modern Seinfeld). Pierpont also makes an unexpected nod to Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse halfway through the novel, flashing readers forward in time through the family’s quiet home after a sudden death in the family. Unlike Woolf, Pierpont uses this as a quick flash that slings readers right back to the present day. (A structural choice that reads almost as a spoiler.) While this might not set well with some readers (ah, the burden of foresight!) this is a drama-filled debut worth taking with you to the beach this summer.  

About the author

Freddie Moore's writing has appeared in Electric Literature, The Paris Review Daily and The Huffington Post. She volunteers at 826NYC and can be found on Twitter at @moorefreddie.

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