Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Family

What constitutes family in The Believers and what function does family serve?

 

In what ways are the Litvinoffs a traditional family? In what ways are they nontraditional?

 

How does the idea of a "tribe," introduced by Audrey at Joel's memorial service, reflect the state of the modern family, for better and for worse?
Reader 2
cjt0411
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎10-07-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Family

The thing that struck me with this book is that the Litvinoffs are the perfect example of the dysfunctional family. The mother was overly critical and demanding and the children all experienced psychological disorders because of it. This is also a depiction of the typical family as well. Not every family is perfect and every family has issues. Real world families resemble nothing like the "Leave it to Beaver" type but more like the Litvinoffs. Granted, the Litvinoff family may be a bit more on the extreme end of things.
Wordsmith
kiakar
Posts: 3,435
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Family

You Know, this is so strange, but I realize that years ago when I watched Leave it to Beaver show,Father knows best and some of the other perfect family shows on TV, that I really felt bad for me and my children. I really sometimes thought that I was disavantaged for not having a family life like theirs. You can for a day, you can for awhile, but there is no perfect family or life with a family is never happy go lucky all the time. So they  are entertaining yes, those perfect family shows but not about real life.

 

 

 

 


cjt0411 wrote:
The thing that struck me with this book is that the Litvinoffs are the perfect example of the dysfunctional family. The mother was overly critical and demanding and the children all experienced psychological disorders because of it. This is also a depiction of the typical family as well. Not every family is perfect and every family has issues. Real world families resemble nothing like the "Leave it to Beaver" type but more like the Litvinoffs. Granted, the Litvinoff family may be a bit more on the extreme end of things.

 

Frequent Contributor
lamorgan
Posts: 62
Registered: ‎01-19-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Family

I totally agree that this is a dysfunctional family. What's with the coldness that pervades through this group of people? They seem to not care about each other at all. Each leads their own life and they avoid each other's feelings like the plague.

Perhaps it is the fault of Audrey, who seems to have distanced herself from getting emotionally involved with her own children. All her energy seems to be spent on keeping Joel happy. They seem to be the classic example of people who shouldn't have children.

Inspired Correspondent
Librarian
Posts: 483
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Family


KxBurns wrote:

 

 How does the idea of a "tribe," introduced by Audrey at Joel's memorial service, reflect the state of the modern family, for better and for worse?


I think many modern families have become more insular units consisting of the parents and those childrten living at home with them. Bacause of job trends, etc. many people often do not have extended family or any relatives nearby. The idea of the "tribe" would really take us back to the days when all family members, elderly and young lived under the same roof or in the same vicinity. They were able to help and support each other and each member had an important role in the family. One difference today however might be that you could have the "tribe" concept of supporting and communicating with each other but you might not be physically living in the same area. Audrey may have introduced the "tribe" idea to protect Joel's reputation and thus give her new life after his deatha purpose. So she did it for selfish, or personal survival reasons. But the concept could also be beneficial to families today.

Librarian

Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Family

I agree, Librarian. I also think the tribe concept could be useful in thinking about multiple caregivers, people other than biological parents raising children. Audrey and Joel stepping in to raise Lenny as their own; then, later, Jean taking Lenny in (even though he's an adult at this point) when he needs a safe place. What's missing in this picture is cooperation; instead, we see competition for Lenny's affection taking place among Susan and Audrey and resentment and jealousy between Audrey and Jean. Except I wonder if Susan and Jean are even active participants in the battles Audrey wages?...
Correspondent
detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Family

 

KxBurns wrote: 
What's missing in this picture is cooperation; instead, we see competition for Lenny's affection taking place among Susan and Audrey and resentment and jealousy between Audrey and Jean. Except I wonder if Susan and Jean are even active participants in the battles Audrey wages?...


I think it's a battle Audrey fights alone. Susan may have the tiniest territoriality about Lenny, but Jean not at all -- I thought her generosity in taking Lenny in, and even her ability to maintain a friendship with Audrey at all, were remakable.

 

The "tribe" concept brought to my mind Hilary Clinton's "village," as in her book It Takes a Village.

Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Family


detailmuse wrote:

 

I think it's a battle Audrey fights alone. Susan may have the tiniest territoriality about Lenny, but Jean not at all -- I thought her generosity in taking Lenny in, and even her ability to maintain a friendship with Audrey at all, were remakable.

 

The "tribe" concept brought to my mind Hilary Clinton's "village," as in her book It Takes a Village.


True! Audrey even goes head-to-head with Dave, Lenny's sponsor.

 

This may be too generous, but perhaps to Audrey's mind, her ranting and railing against Rosa's interest in Orthodox Judaism is a similar battle? Maybe she just doesn't want to lose her daughter to a way of life that she herself cannot fathom being a part of?

Correspondent
detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Family


KxBurns wrote:

True! Audrey even goes head-to-head with Dave, Lenny's sponsor.


I don't think there's even one person Audrey doesn't rail against. As much as I dislike Mike, I agree with what he said on p208 about Audrey picking a fight: "If she doesn't want an argument, she shouldn't bring it up." Did Audrey ever just respond? -- in my mind, she was aggressively argumentative -- always the initiator.

Frequent Contributor
sylvia387
Posts: 43
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Family

"Family" seems to be that central resting spot which the Litvinoffs return to after journeying out into their individual lives.  Remembering that we are picking this story up after a 40 year "introduction" between Audrey and Joel,  we are left to picture the raising of the children, the marital conflicts, and all other things "family" on our own.  It seems to me, like any other family, the characters return with all their known flaws and are somehow awkwardly comfortable in the insulation of each other.

 

Kind of like...Sunday mornings at home when you lounge in your pajamas and haven't yet combed your hair or cleaned up the kitchen.  It's comfortable...until the doorbell rings unexpectedly.

Sylvia

No expectations..No disappointments
Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Family

I see what you mean, Sylvia -- perhaps they are awful to each other because they can be? :smileyhappy:

 

It might not be the best way to treat your loved ones, but maybe there's something to be said for the total lack of pretense among them. Except that I don't think Karla is just being herself -- she, for sure, is presenting herself in the way she thinks has been prescribed for her.

Reader 2
nstock00
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Family

  I think that Audrey and Joel only have enough love for each other and only to a certain point,  both are selfish  and self centered.  Having children was not the highlight of their lives.  They would have faired better had they not been able to have children. 

KxBurns wrote:
What constitutes family in The Believers and what function does family serve?

 

In what ways are the Litvinoffs a traditional family? In what ways are they nontraditional?

 

How does the idea of a "tribe," introduced by Audrey at Joel's memorial service, reflect the state of the modern family, for better and for worse?

 

Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Family

They certainly proved Tolstoy right: they found some very unusual ways of being unhappy.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Family

I think many modern families have become more insular units consisting of the parents and those childrten living at home with them.

 

Haven't I read elsewhere that fewer than half of all children are now being raised in "standard" nuclear families -- father, mother, their natural children?

 

 

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Contributor
daylilies1126
Posts: 21
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Family

I agree that the family was completely dysfunctional.  In a way, it made it so that I didn't want to read the book.  Maybe it hit too close to home, or maybe it's just not the type of book that I am looking to read at this time.  I think in a way, it made it impossible for me to sympathize with anyone regarding Joel's stroke and subsequent coma.  I certainly had no sympathy or empathy for his wife.  The children were confusing to read about, and it seemed a little disjointed when the book discussed them.
Frequent Contributor
LucyintheOC
Posts: 69
Registered: ‎03-05-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Family

In what ways are the Litvinoffs a traditional family? In what ways are they nontraditional?

 

The fact that they got married labels them "traditional" and then they chose to live in a dwelling by themselves as a nuclear unit is very contemporary/western traditional. The way they raised their children, or didn't -- depending upon your particular opinion of their parenting skills or lack thereof -- would be a component of their nontraditional lifestyle. They exposed their children to many ideas and elements, situations in life, that a more traditional parent would not. The family situation was an interesting mix, but it is very clear that the family as it functioned was reflective of Joel and Audrey's selfish, self-centered characters. In Audrey's case, I'll add self-serving, which I don't think applies to Joel.

 

What constitutes family in The Believers and what function does family serve?

 

For most of the book, I think what constitues family in The Believers is the contemporary nuclear family unit. For all their leftist leanings, they were "just like everyone else" for those of us who grew up in the west and really not so special at all. Thinking about what function the family served for itself, I really can't see that it did much to serve any of them, except maybe for Audrey. She needed them as part of her identity.

 

How does the idea of a "tribe," introduced by Audrey at Joel's memorial service, reflect the state of the modern family, for better and for worse?

 

For better or for worse, I think the modern family, in the west, has become somewhat of a free-for-all. And with this blending and shaking and stiring (personal mobility, divorce, remarriage, step-parents, step-children, step-siblings, half-siblings, the associated relatives and ex-relatives that come with the package--and sometimes -- as in The Believers -- a significant love liaison, and also non-traditional couples raising children), the idea of a "tribe" is necessary, I think, to hold it all together. We have had to redefine ourselves and create liaisons to meet our emotional needs and the emotional needs of our children. We created a new definition of family and belonging. I think we, globally in our societies, began to feel very "lonely" -- an aloneness that we, as a species are not programmed for yet by evolution -- and maybe even a little off-balance in our nuclear units and have recreated the extended family of the past but defined it in a 21st century way that fits the realities of our societies as they exist today. As for the "tribe" that Audrey touts at Joel's funeral, it's a farce. She is merely saving face and making a play to grab control. There was no sincerety in it and if the book were to continue, I would expect the truth would find its way into the light and her house of cards would topple at some point. Truth does not stay undiscovered forever.

Distinguished Scribe
blkeyesuzi
Posts: 730
Registered: ‎01-26-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Family


detailmuse wrote:

 

KxBurns wrote: 
...Except I wonder if Susan and Jean are even active participants in the battles Audrey wages?...


I think it's a battle Audrey fights alone. Susan may have the tiniest territoriality about Lenny, but Jean not at all -- I thought her generosity in taking Lenny in, and even her ability to maintain a friendship with Audrey at all, were remakable.

 

The "tribe" concept brought to my mind Hilary Clinton's "village," as in her book It Takes a Village.


I wholeheartedly agree with what detailmouse is saying here.  My first thought was the Hillary Clinton version of "village".  You hit the nail on the head, I think in the statement that Audrey fights these battles alone.  It seems that much of her issues are based on her own perceptions, rather than what is actually happening around her.  The irony of these battles is the fact that she seems to have been in search of a common bond with her husband relating to fighting the "good fight".  Instead, she has managed to create her battles that really accomplish little other than creating family angst. It's almost as if she focuses on the battle, rather than its cause/meaning.  I mean, it's a fight for the sake of fighting, rather than fighting to solve an issue.  Does this make any sense at all?

Suzi

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. " --John Burroughs
Correspondent
detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Family


blkeyesuzi wrote:

It seems that much of [Audrey's] issues are based on her own perceptions, rather than what is actually happening around her.  The irony of these battles is the fact that she seems to have been in search of a common bond with her husband relating to fighting the "good fight".  Instead, she has managed to create her battles that really accomplish little other than creating family angst. It's almost as if she focuses on the battle, rather than its cause/meaning.  I mean, it's a fight for the sake of fighting, rather than fighting to solve an issue.  Does this make any sense at all?


This really fits. Joel fights serious matters of important consequence, whereas Audrey's fights are trivial, trumped up, even imagined. Is it in competition to Joel? -- as a way to stay noticed? It takes a lot of effort, she must be exhausted. I think I finally feel a stir of sympathy for Audrey!