The Altruists: A Novel (Hardcover)
A New York Times Editors' Choice
"[An] intelligent, funny, and remarkably assured first novel. . . . [Andrew Ridker establishes] himself as a big, promising talent. . . . Hilarious. . . . Astute and highly entertaining. . . . Outstanding."
--The New York Times Book Review
"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)
"[A] strikingly assured debut. . . . A novel that grows more complex and more uproarious by the page, culminating in an unforgettable climax."
--Entertainment Weekly (The Must List)
A Real Simple Best Book of the Year (So Far)
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2019 by The Millions and PureWow
A vibrant and perceptive novel about a father's plot to win back his children's inheritance
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 that confronts the divide between baby boomers and their millennial offspring. 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."
About the Author
“[An] intelligent, funny, and remarkably assured first novel. . . . [Andrew Ridker establishes] himself as a big, promising talent. . . . Hilarious. . . . [Ridker] writes sentences with the lively, poetic zing of one as attuned to the sounds of words as to their meanings. . . . Astute and highly entertaining. . . . Ridker’s ambitious blend of global perspective and intimate human comedy seems likely to evoke comparisons to the work of Jonathan Franzen and Nathan Hill. . . . The warm ending opens up the possibility of a bright future . . . which is precisely what this outstanding debut suggests for its talented author.”
—Stephen McCauley, The New York Times Book Review
"With humor and warmth, Ridker explores the meaning of family and its inevitable baggage. The Altruists may not paint the prettiest picture, but it's a relatable, unforgettable view of regular people making mistakes and somehow finding their way back to each other."
—People (Book of the Week)
"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 (The Must List)
“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
“In this début novel, two millennial New Yorkers, Ethan and Maggie, return home to St. Louis to reconnect with their irascible father, Arthur. . . . An incisive inquiry into the point at which self-interest ends and compassion begins.”
—The New Yorker
“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. . . . [A] 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.org
“A witty look at baby boomers and millennials and the things money can’t buy.”
"A widowed father and his adult children find their way after years of getting on one another's nerves. With prickly, strangely endearing characters and sharp writing, this novel is tender and hilarious. "
“The Altruists [is] alive to the contradictions between morality and comfort that exist everywhere under global structures of capitalism and politics.”
—Katy Waldman, NewYorker.com
"An ambitious family drama. . . . The Altruists has a sense of humor. Mr. Ridker has a gift for comic asides. . . . The fun is in the dysfunction."
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“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
“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.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[A] winning 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, Jewish Book Council
"Ridker psychoanalytically peels back layers of time to reveal the truth and, in doing so, crafts wholly complex, three-dimensional characters we come to love. As we root for them, Ridker brings up larger questions about what it means to live a good life, both for others and for ourselves."
—Camille Jacobson, The Paris Review Daily (Staff Pick)
“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.”
"Ridker . . . says the major theme he wanted to explore was what it means to be a good person, where values come from in terms of inheritance and in terms of what we choose for ourselves as adults. That he does it so well and with such humor his first time out means the author has chosen well for himself."
—St. Louis Magazine
“[The Altruists’s] ability to capture some of the difficulties faced by people in [their] twenties and thirties in contemporary America is striking and powerful.”
—Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun
Fascinating and deeply compelling . . . 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. . . . We can expect many more great works of fiction from this extremely talented young novelist. . . . Required reading for these divisive times.”
—Fiction Writers Review
"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
“Ingenious. . . . Funny as hell. . . . The book belongs to the tradition of trenchant atomizations of the modern American family—the territory of Jonathan Franzen . . . and Ridker is just as good. . . . A brilliant, pitiless, and hilarious dissection of an American family in crisis.”
—Shelf Awareness for Readers
“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. . . . There’s something to impress on every page.”
—The Daily Mail (UK)
“[The Altruists’s] wickedly dark sense of humor combines with a complex plot to create a compelling debut.”
“Reading Andrew Ridker's debut novel, you soon realize 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. . . . The Altruists is intricately plotted to drip-feed us revelations. . . . Ridker writes in crisp, sometimes side-splitting prose.”
—Ben Cooke, The Times (UK)
"Ridker meticulously peels away the scabs that have grown over the wounds of the surviving Alters, laying bare, with compassion and piercing wit, the long-simmering antagonisms that haunt both father and children. At the same time, he gently hints at a way forward for this decidedly imperfect, but oddly appealing, family. A painfully honest, but tender, examination of how love goes awry in the places it should flourish."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The hype around The Altruists and Ridker, an Iowa Writer’s Workshop alum, is warranted. . . . [A] darkly funny, heartfelt tale. . . . The lesson Arthur and his children learn by the novel’s end is not financial in nature but moral. It proves to be priceless.”
"[A] smashing debut. . . . Ridker tells his tale with humor, insight, and depth, making this a novel that will resonate with readers."
"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 somewhat dysfunctional Alter family is tenderly dissected in this debut . . . [A] smart novel with an impressive balance between satire and heart.”
—The Sunday Times (UK)
"Ridker's debut is at once humorous and poignant."
"Sparkling. . . . Brilliant prose adorns this gem of a novel, making it a delight to read."
"A comedy of errors. . . . Funny. . . . Very satisfying."
—Rabbi Rachel Esserman, The Reporter
“A spry comedy of parental failure and romantic misadventure. . . . This is a smart, knowing, tender first novel, full of immaculate comic timing and loquacious chutzpah.”
—The Spectator (UK)
“This tragicomedy wittily explores old wounds, new grievances and hard-won wisdom.”
—Sunday Express (UK)
“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 individual today must self-consciously choose.”
—Literary Review (UK)
“The Altruists balances a fine line between dark humour and poignancy.”
—Good Housekeeping (UK)
"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
"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
"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
“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 Wanting Only This
"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