Among The Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont has a promising start. A young woman who had been having an affair with a middle-aged artist named Jack decides, after he ends things with her, to print out all of the texts and emails he sent her over their several months’ long relationship and send them in a box, with a letter, to his wife Deb. The box is intercepted by the couple’s 11 year-old daughter, and later by her older brother, which only complicates the devastating impact it has on Jack and Deb’s marriage and their family.
Among The Ten Thousand Things traces the aftermath of the delivery of the incendiary box, exploring how Deb and the kids react to Jack’s infidelity. The main question, of course, is whether the marriage will survive. Deb is understandably furious, although we learn that she was aware of the affair months before, even if she didn’t have concrete evidence to flip through at night. So the marriage was already on shaky ground before the box arrived.
Pierpont takes an interesting approach in the structure of her novel. She divides it into four parts – the first taking place immediately after the box arrives, the second jumping way ahead into the future, the third resuming where the first left off, and the fourth looking ahead only about five years. This controversial structure didn’t work for me in the end, and here’s why: it made parts 3 and 4 basically unnecessary and therefore somewhat tedious.
I love Pierpont’s incredibly detailed and precise storytelling. She knows how to narrate a scene with such realism that you can just see it unfolding before you. I am always impressed by authors who conjure up random little details that give stories authenticity and a sense of uniqueness, a sense that this scene is neither predictable nor expected. Pierpont is very good at that. She failed, however, to make me care much about how the story resolved, and with the ending revealed halfway through, the second half was even more of a struggle to get through. I already knew what was going to happen, even if she was going to it to me eloquently.
Despite the originality of Pierpont’s writing, this is also a pretty standard story – husband has an affair, wife has to decide whether to forgive or move on, kids are affected, no one is perfect. I’ve read this before.
I do have to give props to the audio version of Among The Ten Thousand Things. Hillary Huber is an excellent narrator – precise, restrained when necessary, angry when the words called for it. She moderated the tone of the characters beautifully, deftly conveying their inner conflicts and the variability of their reactions and impulses. I thought she did an excellent job performing the novel, and she was a big part of why I stuck with it.
This was a buzzy book of 2015. In the end, it was just OK for me.