Review–True Believers by Kurt Andersen


True Believers

by Kurt Andersen

Summary: In True Believers, Kurt Andersen—the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Heyday and Turn of the Century—delivers his most powerful and moving novel yet. Dazzling in its wit and effervescent insight, this kaleidoscopic tour de force of cultural observation and seductive storytelling alternates between the present and the 1960s—and indelibly captures the enduring impact of that time on the ways we live now.
Karen Hollander is a celebrated attorney who recently removed herself from consideration for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her reasons have their roots in 1968—an episode she’s managed to keep secret for more than forty years. Now, with the imminent publication of her memoir, she’s about to let the world in on that shocking secret—as soon as she can track down the answers to a few crucial last questions.
As junior-high-school kids back in the early sixties, Karen and her two best friends, Chuck and Alex, roamed suburban Chicago on their bikes looking for intrigue and excitement. Inspired by the exotic romance of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, they acted out elaborate spy missions pitting themselves against imaginary Cold War villains. As friendship carries them through childhood and on to college—in a polarized late-sixties America riven by war and race as well as sex, drugs, and rock and roll—the bad guys cease to be the creatures of make-believe. Caught up in the fervor of that extraordinary and uncanny time, they find themselves swept into a dangerous new game with the highest possible stakes.
Today, only a handful of people are left who know what happened. As Karen reconstructs the past and reconciles the girl she was then with the woman she is now, finally sharing pieces of her secret past with her national-security-cowboy boyfriend and Occupy-activist granddaughter, the power of memory and history and luck become clear. A resonant coming-of-age story and a thrilling political mystery, True Believers is Kurt Andersen’s most ambitious novel to date, introducing a brilliant, funny, and irresistible new heroine to contemporary fiction.


4 star

I won this ARC via Early Reviews Program at LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

I liked this book a lot. The cover in incredibly eye catching and is the main reason I attempted to win a copy of the book. The summary was also intriguing, as well as the title. All these things piqued my interest and I’m definitely glad I got the chance to read this!

This book jumped back and forth from the 60’s to the present, all from Karen Hollander’s point of view, but it didn’t feel all over the place. The story line was very organized and I enjoyed the trip back through time, but I also enjoyed present day Hollander’s interpretation of her youth.

This is almost one of those books I find hard to discuss because it was so well done. There are so many issues discussed and explored in this book, from living with diabetes to racial and political injustices from WW2 to the present. This book was a rational person’s look back at her wild and extreme viewpoints in a time when wild and extreme viewpoints were a cultural movement. It isn’t looking into the hippie era from an anti-hippie or ex-hippie still emotionally invested in the movement, both of which I wondered and worried about when reading the synopsis.

This book was an amazing journey through Hollander’s life, which was incredibly interesting. I couldn’t put it down, out of sheer curiosity. I also had NO idea what happened back in the late 60’s that she kept so secret. While the entire book hints and gives you clues and little pieces, it was entirely unpredictable.

This time in history is something that interests me a lot, but one that I find difficult to learn more about due to bias. I felt like Hollander’s character made it easy to see into what life might have been like, but realistically and less nostalgic. Politically, this period of time either loved or hated, and I felt like Hollander was sort of in the middle about it, which is what made it so great for me.

This was well written, thrilling, exciting, detailed, interesting, and unpredictable. I liked it, and will definitely read more of Andersen’s books in the future.