In The Land of The Living by Austin Ratner

Publication Date: March 2013
Categories: Jewish, Family Life, Medical

Driven both by grief at his young mother’s death and war with his distant, abusive immigrant father, patriarch Isidore almost attains the life of his dreams: he works his way through Harvard and then medical school; he marries a beautiful and even-keeled girl; in his father-in-law, he finds the father he always wanted; and he becomes a father himself. He has talent, but he also has rage, and happiness is not meant to be his for very long. 

Isidore’s sons, Leo and Mack, haunted by the mythic, epic proportions of their father’s heroics and the tragic events that marked their early lives, have alternately relied upon and disappointed one another since the day Mack was born. For Leo, who is angry at the world but angrier at himself, the burden of the past shapes his future: sexual awakening, first love, and restless attempts live up to his father’s ideals. 

Just when Leo reaches a crossroads between potential self-destruction and new freedom, Mack invites him on a road trip from Los Angeles to Cleveland. As the brothers make their way east, and towards understanding, their battles and reconciliations illuminate the power of family to both destroy and empower-and the price and rewards of independence. 

What I Liked:
  • Coming of age
  • Family saga
  • Road trip!
  • Humorous
  • Neurotic characters
  • All around quirkiness
  • Complicated relationships
I always dig those types of stories and characters. Unfortunately there’s also this category…
What I Didn’t Like:
  • Potty humor (I’m no prude but there are only so many poop jokes that a girl can take)
  • Meandering middle section that nearly lost me
  • Almost too quirky? Affected? Showy? Something.
If I gave star ratings on this blog (I don’t) this one would get 3 out of 5. It stretched my mind, but maybe a little too far.

22 thoughts on “In The Land of The Living by Austin Ratner

  1. I think quirky is really hard to do. When it works, it's wonderful. When it doesn't work, things tend to crash and burn…Sorry this one wasn't for you!


  2. Disappointing . . . I have this one waiting in the wings to read. I'm not a fan of potty mouth humor, although I can take it in small doses. And a slow middle doesn't sound promising, especially given how short my attention span is these days with things that don't hold my interest. I'll likely still give it a try (you never know, I may love it, right?), but I will keep my expectations low. Great review today (as always), Jennifer!


  3. I downloaded this one in the Great NetGalley Invite Disaster of 2013 and have been wavering over whether to read it now (but May feels packed with new pubs for me) or wait until I have a bit more time. Sounds like it might be put on the backburner for now.


  4. Loved this one, Jennifer (your review, I've not read the book). Your suggestion of a rating is really helpful in this case, too, because although you've got the negatives there, the positives sound the sort to out way them. I'm thinking road-trip and quirkiness, awesome, but I guess I should take a bit longer to decide.


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