The Corrections meets We Need to Talk About Kevin in this harrowing multigenerational saga about a family harboring a serial killer in their midst, from the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award finalist playwright Adam Rapp.
It's August in Elmira, a small town in upstate New York, and the year is 1951. While Myra Lee Larkin, newly 13, reads a copy of The Catcher in the Rye secretly under the counter of the local diner, a young Micky Mantle approaches her table, chats her up, offers her a ride home. That night, none of her family believe it was really the Yankees outfielder. The matter consumes her until later that evening when the entire town’s attention is torn away to the grisly triple homicide that occurs just three doors down from the Larkins on their quiet suburban street.
Wolf at the Table unfolds from there, tracing the epic, multigenerational saga of the Larkin family over the next fifty years. Myra and her five younger siblings fan out across the Eastern United States, and yet violence seems to follow them everywhere. Her middle sisters, Lexy and Fiona, struggle with class and power, while Alec, the youngest and only boy, finds his fate more and more tightly wound to that of a prominent serial killer. Myra lands in Chicago, serving as a prison nurse to death row inmates while trying to raise her young son, Ronan, after his father ends up in a psychiatric hospital.
All the while, Alec descends into ever-darker brushes with violence, and becomes alienated from the rest of the family, sending his mother cryptic postcards full of ominous portent. It is only the threat of a final confrontation that pulls back the curtain on the myth the family tells itself about its successes, its propriety, and its adherence to good Irish Catholic values.
Spanning more than five decades of one family’s pursuit of the American dream, Wolf at the Table explores our consistent proximity to violence and its effect over time. Pulitzer Prize finalist Adam Rapp writes with a gorgeous acuity that cuts straight to the heart of each character, and he reveals the devastating reality just beneath the veneer of good society.
About the Author
An acclaimed filmmaker and playwright, Adam Rapp was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his play Red Light Winter and is the recipient of the Benjamin H. Danks Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among other honors. In addition to his numerous plays, he is the author of the novels Know Your Beholder and The Year of Endless Sorrows and several YA novels, including Under the Wolf, Under the Dog, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Born in Chicago and raised in nearby Joliet, Illinois, Rapp now splits his time between New York City’s East Village and upstate New York.
Praise for Know Your Beholder:
"More often than any book I can easily recall, Rapp's novel had me laughing like a fool, embarrassing myself each time I unthinkingly brought it out in public. Perhaps more surprisingly, that humor felt entirely natural—born organically from the idiosyncrasies of the characters themselves rather than foisted on them... Rapp mostly dredges comedy from Francis' peculiar ways of seeing the world and from the mundanely weird people who populate it."—NPR
"Rapp's novel is surprisingly high-spirited, comic without diminishing the emotional depth of his motley crew. That''s largely thanks to Rapp's gift for figurative language."—Washington Post
"Rapp is such a skillful and evocative writer he can make magic out of the ordinary stuff of daily life... Know Your Beholder has a surprisingly satisfying finish on multiple levels... It's nothing less than masterful."—Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Know Your Beholder is funny and sad, smart and moving, dark and hopeful. Adam Rapp writes with a lyrical acumen and wit that are not just impressive, but immensely engaging."—Jonathan Tropper, New York Times bestselling author of This Is Where I Leave You and One Last Thing Before I Go
"Know Your Beholder is a message from the heart and from the beard, a message from the new weird America to every guy who's ever spent too much time in his bathrobe and every women who's ever considered what that guy would look like if he actually got himself together and shaved. Adam Rapp knows about laughing to keep from crying. He's a melancholy Lenny Bruce of the sentence and his imagination is never less than intense."—Hari Kunzru, author of the national bestseller The Impressionist