Released: August 2015
Julia Pierpont’s Among the Ten Thousand Things is one of those novels that begins with quite a bombshell. When artist Jack ends his affair with one of his models she decides to take her revenge in an unusual manner. She prints off all the emails he has ever written her and posts them off to his wife, Debs, in a sort of Pandora’s Box.
Debs already knew about the affair so the letters wouldn’t have come as any real shock to her but what happens next does, as unfortunately Debs doesn’t get to the box first. Their ten year old daughter, Kay, does. The consequences of this are at times humorous, but more frequently disturbing and sometimes horrifying as Kay tries to process and use the information she has read and in turn becomes increasingly isolated from and bullied by her peers at school.
Debs, the wronged wife, finds herself in an impossible situation where, although she wants to turn a blind eye, forgive Jack and carry on as usual, she can’t because that would make her seem weak to her children. Their older son, Simon, at a crossroads himself as he is midway through his teens, finds it difficult to understand any of their behaviours and becomes increasingly angry, particularly with his father. That is until they all go on a family holiday without Jack and Simon finds that choices in life aren’t always easy and as clear cut as he had believed.
As plots go this is a standard one in many ways but what sets it apart from other family dramas is the quality of the writing. All of the central characters in the story are well developed. The voices are authentic, their reactions realistic and the whole story was handled with sensitively and delicately. It has been some time since I read anything that dealt with human emotions so honestly and many of their words stayed with me long after I finished reading the book.
It might not be the kind of story that everyone would enjoy; some of the language in the opening chapters is quite racy as it deals explicitly with the raunchy emails sent from Jack to his ex mistress but once that element of the storytelling has passed it’s quite an extraordinary and tragic story about a family falling apart. It was an incredibly easy and enjoyable read and, for me, in the same vain as Jodie Picoult, storytelling at its absolute best.