The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047

by Lionel Shriver


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With dry wit and psychological acuity, this near-future novel explores the aftershocks of an economically devastating U.S. sovereign debt default on four generations of a once-prosperous American family. Down-to-earth and perfectly realistic in scale, this is not an over-the-top Blade Runner tale. It is not science fiction.

In 2029, the United States is engaged in a bloodless world war that will wipe out the savings of millions of American families. Overnight, on the international currency exchange, the “almighty dollar” plummets in value, to be replaced by a new global currency, the “bancor.” In retaliation, the president declares that America will default on its loans. “Deadbeat Nation” being unable to borrow, the government prints money to cover its bills. What little remains to savers is rapidly eaten away by runaway inflation.

The Mandibles have been counting on a sizable fortune filtering down when their ninety-seven-year-old patriarch dies. Once the inheritance turns to ash, each family member must contend with disappointment, but also—as the U.S. economy spirals into dysfunction—the challenge of sheer survival.

Recently affluent, Avery is petulant that she can’t buy olive oil, while her sister, Florence, absorbs strays into her cramped household. An expat author, their aunt, Nollie, returns from abroad at seventy-three to a country that’s unrecognizable. Her brother, Carter, fumes at caring for their demented stepmother, now that an assisted living facility isn’t affordable. Only Florence’s oddball teenage son, Willing, an economics autodidact, will save this formerly august American family from the streets.

The Mandibles is about money. Thus it is necessarily about bitterness, rivalry, and selfishness—but also about surreal generosity, sacrifice, and transformative adaptation to changing circumstances.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062328281
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/20/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 230,446
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Lionel Shriver's novels include The New Republic, So Much for That, The Post-Birthday World, and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her journalism has appeared in The Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.


Brooklyn, New York, and London, England

Date of Birth:

May 18, 1957

Place of Birth:

Gastonia, North Carolina


B.A., Barnard College of Columbia University, 1978; M.F.A. in Fiction Writing, Columbia University, 1982

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The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love futristic dystopias and this economic dystopia is frighteningly believeable. By focusing on the family unit you feel very connected to the story. Loved it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Much too long and not well-written. Politically, I agree with the sentiments of the novel, but the writing seemed trite and formulated. T. C. Boyle would have crafted a superb novel from this story, but Shriver just does not have the skills.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver is a very highly recommended economic dystopian novel set in a future USA. In 2029 President Alvarado addresses the nation and declares that rather than accept the new global currency, the bancor, the USA will default on all its loans. Oh, and citizens are required to turn in all of their gold to the US government. Members of the Mandible family were all counting on a large inheritance from the family patriarch, but that is wiped out and members of the family must do whatever they can to survive living with each other during a time of absurdly high inflation and few jobs. Florence is the one family member who has a job (at a homeless shelter) and a home not in foreclosure, so the many diverse members of the family descend upon her and rely on her. Willing, Florence's son is the one family member who really understands what is going on and what they should be preparing for in the future. Florence's upper class sister, Avery, descends upon their house with her economics professor husband and three children, while their Aunt Nollie, returns after living for years in France. Their brother Carter and his wife are forced to care for their demented stepmother when she and their father were forced out of a care facility. Yup, it's a family in decline and the drop is steep. It's almost refreshing that Shriver's end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it dystopian is based on economic policy and accrued national debt rather than zombies or viruses. Even though there is a claim that this isn't science fiction in the description, it is speculative fiction about the future based on current economic policies, and economics could be considered a science... At the same time it is a satire where economic policies are held up for ridicule and criticism. Because of the nature of The Mandibles, there is a lot of information and discussion about economic policies and complicated financial terms. If these discussions bother a reader, they could be skimmed over, but that would also mean missing some of the overarching point of the novel. Sure, it's all economics, but it will make sense in the end, should you decide to follow the information. If not, you could follow the question of how these people who are so ill-equipped to survive could possible manage to do just that. Can they change to survive the upheaval and make the necessary sacrifices? Admittedly, I am a fan of Shriver's writing; it's intelligent, well-reasoned and impeccably written. Shriver has a masterful skill with her use of language and I am always in awe of it. She also likes to tackle a specific topic in her books, so I was expecting this. I seem to be in the minority here, but I enjoyed The Mandibles from start to finish and was already recommending it before I even started writing this review. The writing is exceptional; the plot is well researched, clearly presented, and believable. The characters, likeable or not, are all well developed. I especially liked the last part, where the novel jumped ahead fifteen years in the future to show the results of the economic disaster. Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this before the election. It's depiction of economic collapse was chilling then. It's even more so now. Novel manages to be darkly funny as well. Found that the 2nd half of the book petered out a bit, but the first half was really good.