The Believers, By Zoë Heller

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The Independent Culture

A more ambitious novel than Heller's Booker shortlisted Notes on a Scandal, The Believers draws on her adopted home town of New York for an impressively complex family drama that tests faith in any number of guises.

Dominating the novel is Joel Litvinoff, a prominent Jewish activist lawyer who suffers a stroke in the first pages of the book. His wife Audrey, a self-contained Englishwoman, initially warms to her role of hospital handmaiden, only to suffer her own emotional embolism when Joel's hitherto secret mistress turns up at the sick bed.

Joel's infidelity forces Audrey and her daughters to view their lives through fresh eyes. Rosa, a disillusioned radical, toys with orthodox Judaism; while overweight Karla finds herself unexpectedly thrilled by her own extra-marital affair. This liberating tragi-comedy offers no pat solutions.