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What does it mean to be a good person? National Book Award finalist Thompson (The Year We Left Home) sets up characters who aren't happy or well adjusted, let alone "good," but who accurately represent problems within today's society. There are numerous characters, with no central player except Linnea, a teenager who witnesses a school shooting. Her subsequent behavior problems lead her mother to send Linnea to stay with her deadbeat father, Art, an adjunct professor with little ambition or connection to his offspring. Teenage Conner is suffering in a different way. His father has been injured in an accident and is now unemployed and addicted to painkillers; as a result, their home is in foreclosure. Art's neighbor Christie is a nurse entrusted by a wealthy, eccentric patient with running an odd charity called the Humanity Project. Its mission is unclear, but its benefactor wonders whether one can pay people to be good. The interconnections among these characters gradually unfold as Thompson develops the story. VERDICT This is not light reading; Thompson wants her readers to think about humanity, but she doesn't probe deeply. Though the story is well crafted, it's hard to become engaged, particularly because the characters aren't entirely likable. [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/12.]-Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden--Sydney Coll. Lib., VA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Thompson (The Year We Left Home, 2011) achieves exceptional clarity and force in this instantly addictive, tectonically shifting novel. As always, her affection and compassion for her characters draw you in close, as does her imaginative crafting of precarious situations and moments of sheer astonishment. The plot revolves around two southern California single fathers and their teenage offspring. Sean is struggling to find construction work as his house goes into foreclosure. His son, Conner, should be looking forward to college, but, instead, he, too, is scrambling for a job. Art, a pot-smoking, part-time college teacher smitten with his neighbor, Christie, a worldly-wise nurse and the moral fulcrum of the novel, has played no role in his now 15-year-old daughter's life. So both he and Linnea have a lot to navigate when she moves in after surviving a school shooting in Ohio. All lives converge and are transformed when a wealthy widow establishes a hazily conceived philanthropic organization. Thompson infuses her characters' bizarre, terrifying, and instructive misadventures with hilarity and profundity as she considers the wild versus the civilized, the survival of the richest, how and why we help and fail each other, and what it might mean to build an authentic spiritual self. Thompson is at her tender and scathing best in this tale of yearning, paradox, and hope. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling Thompson attracts more readers with each book; a strong publicity push and critical acclaim should carry The Humanity Project to the top.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist