In Conversation with Lily Meyer
A vibrant and perceptive novel about a father’s plot to win back his children’s inheritance
Arthur Alter is in trouble. A middling professor at a Midwestern college, he can’t afford his mortgage, he’s exasperated his much-younger girlfriend, and his kids won’t speak to him. And then there’s the money—the small fortune his late wife, Francine, kept secret, which she bequeathed directly to his children.
Those children are Ethan, an anxious recluse living off his mother’s money on a choice plot of Brooklyn real estate, and Maggie, a would-be do-gooder trying to fashion herself a noble life of self-imposed poverty. On the verge of losing the family home, Arthur invites his children back to St. Louis under the guise of a reconciliation. But in doing so, he unwittingly unleashes a Pandora’s box of age-old resentments and long-buried memories—memories that orbit Francine, the matriarch whose life may hold the key to keeping them together.
Spanning New York, Paris, Boston, St. Louis, and a small desert outpost in Zimbabwe, The Altruists is a darkly funny (and ultimately tender) family saga that confronts the divide between baby boomers and their millennial offspring. It’s a novel about money, privilege, politics, campus culture, dating, talk therapy, rural sanitation, infidelity, kink, the American beer industry, and what it means to be a “good person.”
“With humor and warmth, Ridker explores the meaning of family and its inevitable baggage…. A relatable, unforgettable view of regular people making mistakes and somehow finding their way back to each other.”
—People (Book of the Week)
“[A] strikingly assured debut…. A novel that grows more complex and more uproarious by the page, culminating in an unforgettable climax.”
—Entertainment Weekly (The Must List)
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2019 by The Millions andPureWow
Lily Meyer is a writer, critic, and translator from Washington, D.C. She’s a regular reviewer for NPR Books and a contributing writer for Electric Literature. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Atlantic, Longreads, the New Yorker, the Poetry Foundation, the Sewanee Review, and more. Lily studied creative writing at Brown University and the University of East Anglia. She won the Sewanee Review’s First Annual Fiction Contest, judged by Danielle Evans, and is a two-time fiction grant recipient from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
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