Why Julia Pierpont's 'Among the Ten Thousand Things' is obsession-worthy
Among the Ten Thousand Things arrived just in time, hitting bookshelves and falling into our palms on July 7th, peak summertime. And while Julia Pierpont’s debut novel (she was only 28 when she wrote it) doesn’t exactly lend itself to the category of “beach reads,” it might make you think twice before leaving to the beach without it. Ten Thousand Things is about a delicate Upper West Side family on the brink of crumbling, a story that closely examines the perspectives of four people who fight against heartbreak in their own unique ways.
Mother and former dancer, Deb Shanley, has known for awhile that her egocentric artist husband Jack is cheating on her. But she can’t keep this pain to herself anymore when her 11-year-old daughter Kay and teen son Simon come across all of her father’s X-rated e-mails with his mistress —a box filled with printed- out chats that are solely meant for Deb. Using smart, piercing language and beautiful narration, Pierpont gives us a family ravaged (and shaped) by distrust, selfishness, and infidelity. In Ten Thousand Things, we learn, ultimately, how narcissism and betrayal has a way of creating irreversible ripples.
What makes Among the Ten Thousand Things stand out from the infinite supply of novels about family dramas, is that Pierpont really understands people. She makes potentially unlikeable characters deeply sympathetic, she pinpoints all the ways suffering can manifest itself, and she identifies the hardest parts of relationships in a really nuanced, sophisticated style that makes your heart ache for every character involved.
There’s one point in the novel where Deb says, “The point is I could, I could do the easy thing, or I could do the hard thing. I don’t even know which would be harder. Divorce? Do you know what a nightmare? And I want to be married. I got married because I want to be married, Jack. Why did you?” And this moment embraces everything we want to do as human beings — we want to be comfortable. We want to be loved and feel good and stay in that one place even if that place is hurting us.
Among the Ten Thousand Things is a story I can’t stop thinking about —it’s a story that is so very human and honest and raw to the core. It deserves to be read over and over.
(Image via Barnes & Noble)