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Wild Abandon

Cover of Wild Abandon

Wild Abandon

A Novel
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At a once vibrant communal-living property in the British countryside, back-to-basics fervor has given way to a vague discontent. A place that once buzzed with activity, from the polytunnels to the pottery shed, now functions with a skeleton crew. Founder Don Riley surveys his domain with the grim focus of someone who knows what's best for everyone--and isn't afraid to let them know. Especially when those people are related to him.

Don's wife, Freya, can't quite decide whether not liking someone anymore is enough reason to end a twenty-year marriage. So she decamps to a mud yurt in the woods to mull it over. Their seventeen-year-old daughter, Kate, enrolls in school for the first time in her life: the exotic new world of fellow teenagers and surprisingly tasty cafeteria food beckons, and she is quickly lured into the arms of a "meathead" classmate. In his sister's absence, eleven-year-old Albert falls under the spell of an outlandish new visitor to the community who fills his head with strange notions of the impending end of the world.

Faced with the task of rescuing his son from apocalyptic fantasies, his daughter from the clutches of suburbia, and his wife from her increasingly apparent desire to leave him, Don convinces himself that the only way to save the world he's created is . . . to throw the biggest party of his life. Will anyone show up?

From the acclaimed young author of Submarine, Wild Abandon is a strange and wonderful look at love--familial and romantic, returned and rebuffed--and the people and places we choose to call home.

From the Hardcover edition.
At a once vibrant communal-living property in the British countryside, back-to-basics fervor has given way to a vague discontent. A place that once buzzed with activity, from the polytunnels to the pottery shed, now functions with a skeleton crew. Founder Don Riley surveys his domain with the grim focus of someone who knows what's best for everyone--and isn't afraid to let them know. Especially when those people are related to him.

Don's wife, Freya, can't quite decide whether not liking someone anymore is enough reason to end a twenty-year marriage. So she decamps to a mud yurt in the woods to mull it over. Their seventeen-year-old daughter, Kate, enrolls in school for the first time in her life: the exotic new world of fellow teenagers and surprisingly tasty cafeteria food beckons, and she is quickly lured into the arms of a "meathead" classmate. In his sister's absence, eleven-year-old Albert falls under the spell of an outlandish new visitor to the community who fills his head with strange notions of the impending end of the world.

Faced with the task of rescuing his son from apocalyptic fantasies, his daughter from the clutches of suburbia, and his wife from her increasingly apparent desire to leave him, Don convinces himself that the only way to save the world he's created is . . . to throw the biggest party of his life. Will anyone show up?

From the acclaimed young author of Submarine, Wild Abandon is a strange and wonderful look at love--familial and romantic, returned and rebuffed--and the people and places we choose to call home.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    "First off, the sky goes dark."

    "Of course it does."

    "Then they come out the ground and, if you're a certain type of person, drag you under, where your body is consumed."

    They got to the gate of the pen and Kate opened it, letting her brother through first.

    "And I'm guessing you are that type of person," he said.

    She slid the bolt back across while he ran ahead, his boots squelching in the mud. Walking on, she watched him duck under the low roof, slapping the wooden joist with his free hand as he went inside the shelter. At eleven years old, her brother awoke every day buzzing. Everything he saw in these first few hours--the gravestones of pets, log piles, frost--deserved a high five.

    "I'm gonna milk the face off you," Albert told the goats. "I'm going to milk you to death."

    He did resemble a trainee grim reaper, she thought, in his deep-hooded navy poncho, carrying a bucket to collect fresh souls. Following him into the shelter, she sat on a low stool next to Belona--her favorite goat, a four-year-old Alpine with white legs and a black, comma-shaped beard--who was against the back wall with her neck tied. She stamped her hooves as she ate from her feed pan. Belona was notoriously difficult in the mornings; this was part of her and Kate's affinity.

    Albert was talking as he milked. ". . . so she has this massive picture of what's at the center of the universe and it's basically a pair of eyes--two huge evil eyes . . ."

    Kate tried not to listen. She squeezed, tugged, closed her fingers from index to pinkie, and focused on the noise of milk on metal; the sound slowly deadened as the bucket filled. She put her ear against Belona's side and listened to the gurgling innards. The swell and slump of the goat's breathing.

    ". . . and research shows, you'll have to wave bye-bye to gravity and time and university and . . ."

    "Albert."

    He stopped talking but she knew his speech continued, unbroken, inside his head. She started to get a rhythm going, two-handed, fingers finally warming. Her brother, meanwhile, played his goat like an arcade machine.

    "One--nil," he said, as he picked up his bucket and stool and moved to the other side of the divider. He put a feed pan in front of Babette and she immediately dug in.

    Belona started battling a little, her legs jerking, clanging against the bucket. With her knuckles, Kate stroked the tassels that hung from the goat's jaw and, leaning over, whispered to her.

    "What are you saying?"

    "Nothing."

    "Are you in love with Belona? That's okay if you are. Mum and Dad won't mind. They're totally easy with whatever. They just want you to be in a loving relationship."

    Belona kicked and the bucket tipped--spilling half the milk onto the mud and straw. Kate's jaw tightened.

    Her brother, through years of collecting words from international visitors to the community, had compiled an armory of exotic insults. He tutted and proceeded to call her something bad in Bengali.

    It was just getting light. There was the smell of hay and shit. Hooves skittered on the stones. Outside the gloomy hut she could see the rain still coming down in the pen, filling the holes left by their boots.

    Back at the yard, Albert poured his milk into a dented churn. Spots of mud and dirt camouflaged themselves among the freckles on his face. His right ear hole, she noticed, held a cache of grit. She often tried to convince him that it was a duty, as someone brought up in a community, to battle stereotypes by maintaining, as she did, exceptional levels of hygiene. Albert wasn't...

About the Author-
  • Joe Dunthorne's first novel, Submarine, has been translated into ten languages and made into a feature film. His debut poetry collection was published in 2010. He lives in London.
Reviews-
  • Metro "[Contains] one of the funniest, most poignant kids I've run across in fiction...Wild Abandon had me pestering my wife with favorite lines till she promised to read it." --Ron Charles, The Washington Post

    "He's an elegant, accessible, and interesting comic novelist, whose work, I suspect, will provide a great deal of pleasure to a great number of people for many years." -- Nick Hornby, The Believer

    "[R]ichly plotted and peopled"--Entertainment Weekly

    "Populated by flawed, occasionally exasperating, lovable and, above all, thoroughly imagined characters, Wild Abandon is about what happens to children when parents become consumed by their beliefs...A terrific novel." -- Nick Hornby, The Guardian, "Best Books of the Year"

    "Think Juno or Bottle Rocket, then read [Wild Abandon]... This novel could be charming and silly, but Dunthorne infuses it with a wry, dark humor that builds to a nearly terrifying conclusion... Complicated, realistic, and unsettling" -- Library Journal

    "With well-developed characters and a dark humor reminiscent of that in his first novel, Submarine (2008), Dunthorne delivers hilarity and heartbreak while redefining the essence of normality in this story about what makes a family and what makes a family dysfunctional."--Booklist

    "A fresh perspective on modern culture, peppered with colorful dialogue."--Kirkus

    "Manages to be both tender and biting . . . Wild Abandon never lapses into parody, because [Joe] Dunthorne doesn't scrimp on the small moments that make a character light up. . . . Truly laugh-out-loud hilarious."--The Independent on Sunday "Has you wincing on [the protagonist's] behalf, page after page-turning page . . .Dunthorne does himself proud. [He draws] characters with real staying power."--The Evening Standard (London) "Sublimely enjoyable."

  • GQ

    "Full of finely nuanced details and a restless comic energy . . . builds to a fine apocalyptic climax."--The Guardian "Wild Abandon is a very funny novel, but it's not quite a comic one. . . . There's a pathos here too. . . . From The Tempest to The Beach, everybody loves the tale of a flawed Utopia. [Wild Abandon] subverts the genre without even seemingly trying to. And it's hilarious. What's not to like?"--The Times "[Dunthorne is] the British Dave Eggers."
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    Random House Publishing Group
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Wild Abandon
A Novel
Joe Dunthorne
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