The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047

In 2029, the world abandons the dollar as the global reserve currency, and the United States's first "Lat" president, Dante Alvarado, responds by renouncing the country's towering national debt and making owning gold in any form a crime, sparking a catastrophic chain reaction. Inflation quickly balloons to an annual rate of 80%, and the ensuing stock market crash wipes out any vestige of investment wealth. Four generations of the Mandible family, heirs to a diesel engine fortune that eventually dwindles to a few pieces of silver service, are left to cope with their ever more straitened circumstances.

Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) keeps a tight focus on the tribulations of the Mandibles. Douglas, a former literary agent in his late 90s, is now unable to live out his final years in expected comfort. Meanwhile, Willing Darkly, his great-grandson, is a teenager whose preternatural knowledge of economics allows him, above all other members of the family, to comprehend what lies ahead. Their experience of society's descent into a Hobbesian nightmare, where apartments are "house-jacked" at gunpoint and settled economic relations evaporate overnight, seems, in Shriver's portrayal, frighteningly plausible.

The Mandibles is a smart cautionary tale about how quickly the veneer of civilization can crumble when our leaders blunder. But more than that, this shrewd novel reveals how intimately our very identities are bound up with our relationship to money: how we save it, how we spend it and how our hopes for the future are built on assumptions about it that may turn out to be far more tenuous than we'd ever dare admit. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

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