A New York Times Editors’ Choice
Longlisted for the Prix du Meilleur livre étranger
Named a Best Book of the Week/Month/Season/Year by People, The Times, Vanity Fair, Amazon, InStyle, Real Simple, The Oregonian, and The New York Post
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2019 by The Millions, Southern Living, and PureWow
Reader’s guide available here.
“The tyranny of the past is a central problem in The Altruists, Andrew Ridker’s intelligent, funny and remarkably assured first novel. . . . The clash of reunion expectations and the reality of family ties give Ridker an opportunity to write some of the book’s most comedic and moving scenes and, in doing so, to establish himself as a big, promising talent. . . . He writes sentences with the lively, poetic zing of one as attuned to the sounds of words as to their meanings. . . . His commentary on the cultural eccentricities of pre-Trump middle-class America (the book is set in 2015) is astute and highly entertaining. . . . And his descriptions have enough wit and psychological accuracy to make even minor characters spring to multidimensional life. . . . Ridker’s ambitious blend of global perspective and intimate human comedy seems likely to evoke comparisons to Jonathan Franzen and Nathan Hill. . . . Ridker’s almost psychoanalytic peeling back of layers of time and experience gets to the heart of the family’s dysfunction while creating characters with true depth. I found myself rooting for the Alters. . . . The warm ending opens up the possibility of a bright future for them, which is precisely what this outstanding debut suggests for its talented author.”
—Stephen McCauley, The New York Times Book Review
“Andrew Ridker, still in his twenties, has uncorked a lively, tragicomic debut novel. . . . Ridker elevates his book with a sharp eye for the absurdities of contemporary American culture and his characters' irksome pieties, though his ironic sensibility is offset with a good measure of compassion. . . . Ridker's skillful balancing act between sympathy and satire is on full, fabulous display. . . . The Altruists boasts numerous charms, ranging from worthy ethical issues treated with an effective wryness to its rare, fond celebration of steamy St. Louis. Its ending is well-earned, and so are its life lessons, adding up to an unusually promising debut.”
—Heller McAlpin, NPR
“With humor and warmth, Ridker explores the meaning of family and its inevitable baggage. . . . A relatable, unforgettable view of regular people making mistakes and somehow finding their way back to each other."
—People (Book of the Week)
“An incisive inquiry into the point at which self-interest ends and compassion begins.”
—The New Yorker
“A great novel about the myths we tell ourselves and others in order to survive.”
“Reading Andrew Ridker’s debut novel, you soon realise you’re in the presence of a new talent. . . . The Altruists is intricately plotted. . . . Ridker writes in crisp, sometimes side-splitting prose. . . . Hilarious. . . . Remarkable.”
—Ben Cooke, The Times
“A satisfyingly sprawling family epic. . . . The characters are so true to life that it’s almost incidental that, without becoming preachy or navel-gazing, the book also raises interesting questions about morality and goodness.”
—Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair
“Tragedy begets comedy in Ridker’s strikingly assured debut about a family undone by grief. . . . Ridker spins delicate moral dilemmas in a novel that grows more complex and more uproarious by the page, culminating in an unforgettable climax.”
—Entertainment Weekly (Must List)
“Alive to the contradictions between morality and comfort that exist everywhere under global structures of capitalism and politics. . . . attractive, well-made fiction.”
—Katy Waldman, NewYorker.com
“This is a whip-smart, wickedly funny and psychologically acute novel about the cost of doing good. It manages to satirise its characters’ folly and egotism, while keeping us wholly on their side. The finale — a car crash of a family reunion — hits the sweet spot between hilarity and pathos with particularly excruciating precision, but there’s something to impress on every page.”
—The Daily Mail
“Ridker writes with such good humor and graceful irony that he manages to portray Arthur and his kids as people you want to care about, even if you wouldn’t invite them to your house. . . . Ridker’s genius is making a generally unlikable character fun to read and gossip about. Quite an accomplishment in a first novel.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“An ambitious family drama. . . . The fun is in the dysfunction.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“With prickly, strangely endearing characters and sharp writing, this novel is tender and hilarious.”
“[Ridker] is one of the American literary revelations of the year. . . . A satirical and witty dive into the heart of a middle-class Jewish family.”
“Brilliant. . . . With striking irony and a devastating sense of humor, The Altruists tackles themes as diverse as family, academia, failure, inheritance, and the role of money. . . . proof of the indisputable maturity of this promising writer.”
“More than a family saga, The Altruists is a story of grief contaminated by manipulation, of spiritual fulfillment and moral aspiration constrained by the material world, of the fire of idealism smothered by the wet blanket of pragmatism. It’s a novel, in other words, rooted in the philosophical issues that have come to define the American left in the second decade of the second millennium. . . . The Altruists looks long and hard at the aftermath of loss, just as it looks long and hard at class relations, financial anxiety, and the tensions of globalism, cosmopolitanism, and loneliness. Despite the leadenness of these topics—or maybe because of it—it’s very, very funny. It marks the beginning of what promises to be a rich career.”
“What would it be like for a selfish, hopelessly misguided male archetype from literary yesteryear to be confronted by a ‘woke’ world? This is the fascinating and deeply compelling vision employed so well in Andrew Ridker’s debut novel, The Altruists. . . . Much of what ensues is both wildly funny and deeply empathic. Ridker has an incredible penchant for setting each scene in full and populating it with characters that brim with clear-cut emotional depth and realism. And while the author possesses a unique talent for metaphors and similes, he can also deliver gut-busting images around any corner. . . . If the end has truly come for the likes of the hoary old patriarchy—if that growing rumble overtaking America really is the unmistakable death rattle—then let it happen on Ridker’s watch, because my assumption is we can expect many more great works of fiction from this extremely talented young novelist. . . . Required reading for these divisive times.”
—Fiction Writers Review
“Andrew Ridker has a lot to say about the way we live now. The result is one of those super-brilliant, super-funny novels one enjoys in the manner of a squirrel with an especially delicious acorn. I found myself trying to get out of every activity and responsibility just to come back to this novel.”
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
"A smart, knowing, tender first novel, full of immaculate comic timing and loquacious chutzpah."
—Jude Cook, The Spectator
“Wise, witty. . . . Ridker is preternaturally smart about the traps that even bright people set for themselves, he loves his all of his messed-up characters and he finds hopeful-but-not-unrealistic ways for them to live their better, if not best, lives.”
—The Star Tribune
"Tender and intimate. . . . stunningly intricate and touching. . . . [a] call for universal generosity in a time of change, grief, and nationwide emotional tension."
—The Daily Mississippian
“This tragicomedy wittily explores old wounds, new grievances and hard-won wisdom.”
“[A] winning family saga.”
—Southern Living (The Best New Books Coming Out Spring 2019)
“[A] smart novel with an impressive balance between satire and heart.”
—The Sunday Times
”A painfully honest, but tender, examination of how love goes awry in the places it should flourish.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“The Altruists is a witty look at baby boomers and millennials and the things money can’t buy.”
“A witty family saga that confronts the divide between baby boomers and their millennial offspring. This relatable tragicomedy riffs on capitalism and culture with verve.”
“Beautifully written, with witty, pitch-perfect dialogue and fascinating characters, Ridker's impressive, deeply satisfying debut is an extraordinarily insightful look at a family broken apart by loss and struggling to find a way back to each other and themselves.”"
”The hype around The Altruists and Ridker, an Iowa Writers’ Workshop alum, is warranted. . . . The lesson Arthur and his children learn by the novel’s end is not financial in nature but moral. It proves to be priceless.”
“[The Altruists] belongs in the tradition of the Great American Novel. . . . A beautiful portrait of American life.”
“A definite success. . . . [Ridker] has immense literary talent. . . . The structure is perfect, the analysis intelligent, the description of the characters spot-on and sincere. We will be waiting impatiently for his next novel.”
“A perfect success.”
“[A] brilliant family saga.”
“Engrossing and engaging. . . . The result of Andrew Ridker’s family cross-section is truly splendid. It is a fun and entertaining exploration of love and kindness, and how generosity, even presented in its finest hour, is not spared its own, very unique and untidy flaws.”
—Wendy Ruth Walker, JewishBookCouncil.org
“[A] smashing debut. . . . Ridker tells his tale with humor, insight, and depth, making this a novel that will resonate with readers.”
“The Altruists combines Franzen’s genius for family portraits and the satirical spirit of Philip Roth’s early books. But if Ridker is in the footsteps of his literary forefathers—which include Updike, Salinger, and others—he does so with original humor and rhythm. The irresistible members of the Alter family are anti-heroes of an era torn between contradictory values: triumphant individualism and empathy. From this conflict Ridker has written a novel as funny as it is endearing.”
“Ridker handles the tussle between parent and children with humour and psychological insight, and the novel deals fluently with the perennial intergenerational struggle for understanding. . . . [Ridker] is a sure comic talent, witty and engaged, and alive to the legion of competing and irreconcilable roles from which the the individual today must self-consciously choose.”
“The Altruists balances a fine line between dark humour and poignancy.”
—Good Housekeeping (UK)
“Andrew Ridker's ingenious plot sounds ripe for giddy-making farce, and The Altruists is indeed funny as hell. But the book belongs to the tradition of trenchant atomizations of the modern American family--the territory of Jonathan Franzen and Stuart Nadler, and Ridker is just as good. As points of view shift in time among Arthur, Francine and their kids, they take turns circling one another like vultures hungry for, in equal measure, answers and affirmation.”
“An irresistible family saga. . . . Andrew Ridker constructs and deconstructs the family unit by brilliantly jumping between past and present with an irony that pierces all appearances. . . . He does not judge so much as he dismantles, amuses, and amazes.”
—Air France Madame
“Sparkling. . . . Brilliant prose adorns this gem of a novel, making it a delight to read.”
“Humorous and poignant.”
“It’s frankly a little unfair that a writer so young should be this talented. Not only does Andrew Ridker have a sharp eye for the absurdities and contradictions of 21st century America, but he also delivers a heartfelt and compassionate story about a family shattered by loss, now finding their awkward way back to each other. I cared so much for these people, their traumas and betrayals, their public humiliations and private failures. The Altruists is a truly remarkable debut.”
—Nathan Hill, author of The Nix
“This book will inspire readers to sacrifice comfort and find meaning—Turn off (the comfort), Tune out (the babble of groupthink), Drop in (to duty and responsibility)—or else! Thank you to Andrew Ridker for this excellent debut novel. It is culturally significant and a sign of the times.”
—Atticus Lish, author of Preparation for the Next Life
"The Altruists is a superb exploration of isolation, loneliness, and infidelity—in the broadest, most interesting application of the word. Every chapter is crafted with the care of a perfect short story, and the characters within it are so fully formed I could almost feel their breathing. How tremendous (and a little annoying) that a novel this striking could come from a writer so young."
—Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Only Wanting This
"Andrew Ridker's expansive, big-hearted debut novel The Altruists is a hilarious and moving portrait of family, and a page-turning investigation of the blurry lines between right, wrong, and selfish."
—Julie Buntin, author of Marlena
“The Altruists is as rich and generous as the title suggests—a boisterous, funny, real-damn-smart novel about the agonies of family secrets and guilt. Andrew Ridker has got it all: magnetic style, oceans of intellect, and true affection for his hilariously neurotic characters. This book will have you doubled over and crying every sort of tear.”
—Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens
Arthur Alter is in trouble. A middling professor at a Midwestern college, he can’t afford his mortgage, he’s exasperated his much-younger girlfriend, and his kids won’t speak to him. And then there’s the money–the small fortune his late wife Francine kept secret, which she bequeathed directly to his children.
Those children are Ethan, an anxious recluse living off his mother’s money on a choice plot of Brooklyn real estate; and Maggie, a would-be do-gooder trying to fashion herself a noble life of self-imposed poverty. On the verge of losing the family home, Arthur invites his children back to St. Louis under the guise of a reconciliation. But in doing so, he unwittingly unleashes a Pandora’s box of age-old resentments and long-buried memories–memories that orbit Francine, the matriarch whose life may hold the key to keeping them together.
Spanning New York, Paris, Boston, St. Louis, and a small desert outpost in Zimbabwe, The Altruists is a darkly funny (and ultimately tender) family saga in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides, with shades of Philip Roth and Zadie Smith. It’s a novel about money, privilege, politics, campus culture, dating, talk therapy, rural sanitation, infidelity, kink, the American beer industry, and what it means to be a “good person.”
A Small Press Distribution Bestseller
"Excellent. . . . A crucially important time stamp in the larger history of American poetics."
"The range of poets and poems is phenomenal, from traditional to tech, established to new. . . [A]n important anthology."
"The book is, in plain fact, an excellent, superbly distributed introduction to American poetry circa 2014. The table of contents is at once a Who’s Who and a What Is This, and the book is filled with great poems by great writers. Of a dozen possible ways to indicate the territory, consider a map with these four corners: John Ashbery, CAConrad, Nikki Giovanni, and Robert Pinsky."