The somewhat dysfunctional Alter family is tenderly dissected in this debut from the 25-year-old American novelist Ridker, who reunites failed college professor Arthur with his do-gooding daughter and reclusive gay son a couple of years after the death of their mother — a successful psychotherapist, who left all her cash to the kids and not her unfaithful husband. Finally the survivors are reconciled, in this smart novel with an impressive balance between satire and heart.
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.
Reading Andrew Ridker’s debut novel, you soon realise you’re in the presence of a new talent. In The Altruists he has conjured up the sort of dysfunctional family situation ideal for bitter humour. Arthur Alter and his two grown-up children, Ethan and Maggie, are superbly counterbalanced to bring out one another’s vanities and insensitivities. Ridker gets much laughter out of their quarrels, but it’s tinged with distaste that they can be so horrid to one another.