The Society of Shame (Hardcover)
Kathleen Held returns home early from a trip, only to find her garage on fire, her husband (running for US Senate) panicking on the front lawn, and one of his drunk campaign staffers trying to hide the obvious evidence that they are sleeping together. Furious and heartbroken, Kathleen wakes up the next day to the cherry on the cake — her taxi driver took a photo from the chaos featuring Kathleen front and center with a large and obvious period stain on her pants. Kathleen is unhappily swept up into viral fame for a growing movement calling itself #YesWeBleed as well as a secret group called "The Society of Shame" whose leader, Danica, is determined to help Kathleen turn her unfortunate moment into stardom and riches. And of course, in the thick of it all is her daughter Aggie, determined to join the movement on her own terms. A witty and entertaining look into the ridiculous reality of internet shaming, viral fame, extremist viewpoints, and one woman who learns the price you pay if you really want to worry about what everyone on the internet thinks of you.— Aerie
“If you liked Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, read The Society of Shame by Jane Roper.” —The Washington Post
In this timely and witty combination of So You've Been Publicly Shamed and Where'd You Go, Bernadette? a viral photo of a politician's wife's “feminine hygiene malfunction” catapults her to unwanted fame in a story that's both a satire of social media stardom and internet activism, and a tender mother-daughter tale.
Kathleen Held’s life is turned upside down when she arrives home to find her house on fire and her husband on the front lawn in his underwear. But the scandal that emerges is not that Bill, who's running for Senate, is having a painfully cliched affair with one of his young staffers: it's that the eyewitness photographing the scene accidentally captures a period stain on the back of Kathleen’s pants.
Overnight, Kathleen finds herself the unwitting figurehead for a social media-centered women’s right movement, #YesWeBleed. Humiliated, Kathleen desperately seeks a way to hide from the spotlight. But when she stumbles upon the Society of Shame—led by the infamous author Danica Bellevue—Kathleen finds herself part of a group who are all working to change their lives after their own scandals. Using the teachings of the society, Kathleen channels her newfound fame as a means to reap the benefits of her humiliation and reclaim herself. But as she ascends to celebrity status, Kathleen's growing obsession with maintaining her popularity online threatens her most important relationship IRL: that with her budding activist daughter, Aggie.
Hilarious and heartfelt, The Society of Shame is a pitch-perfect romp through politics and the perils of being "extremely online"—without losing your sanity or your true self.
About the Author
JANE ROPER is the author of two previous books: a memoir, Double Time, and a novel, Eden Lake. Her short fiction, essays, and humor have appeared in publications including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Millions, The Rumpus, Salon, and Poets & Writers and on NPR. Jane is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.
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“Roper spins a delightfully dead-on comedy of manners around an endearing heroine.”
“Clever and inventive. . . . In a sea of sad novels The Society of Shame dares us to laugh.”
—Karen Heller, The Washington Post
“It’s hard to imagine there will be a smarter, sassier takedown of social media this year than The Society of Shame. . . . Roper is a gifted comic writer who knows how to throw a punchline and to sustain a running gag or two or twenty. . . . Hilarious.”
—Jennifer Graham, The Hippo
“[A] funny, timely novel. . . . Roper reveals the cruelty and absurdity of modern fame. . . . A welcome satire on modern life.”
—Mary Wisniewski, Newcity Lit
“A hilarious romp through cancel culture, performative activism, and politics. [Roper] manages a fine balance between quippy humor and genuine emotion, and as Kat steps out of her husband’s shadow, the book becomes a woman’s journey of self-discovery and a mother-daughter story. Recommended for fans of Maria Semple and Laurie Gelman.”
—Susan Maguire, Booklist (starred review)
“A novel that takes back shame while packing a funny and poignant punch. . . . The humor gets its teeth from author Roper’s eye for just the right details. . . . Astutely written, with the perfect balance among humor, heartbreak, and understanding.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The Society of Shame is like Tom Wolfe and David Sedaris had a baby and it was female. I was HOWLING with laughter on every page. This is the book we NEED right now: not only because it’s absofreakinglutely hilarious, not only because it makes trenchant points about cancel culture—but because it’s zany and zeitgeisty and, like all exquisite satire, it reflects us back to ourselves in a way that raises questions—and possible solutions. YOU NEED THIS BOOK.”
—Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family
“Roper perfectly blends satire with witty prose to capture the ridiculous culture of social media and the 24-hour news cycle we currently find ourselves trapped in. Kat Held is a character you will hold close and think about long after you’ve stopped reading. This protagonist is all of us as we navigate what it means to be a woman in the world, to deal with shame and to carve out our identities as we age. The mother-daughter relationship at the heart of this page-turner of a novel is beautifully drawn as both Kat and her tween daughter come of age in very different and yet similar ways.”
—Jo Piazza, author of We Are Not Like Them and Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win
“A wicked and wickedly funny send-up of cancel culture and a serious examination of the distinctly modern thrill of taking offense. . . . The Society of Shame is brilliantly executed, improbably well sustained, and truly hilarious. . . . Roper nails the shameless theatricality of politics and the anarchy of social media, but within her uproarious indictment is a quieter, rather moving consideration of a woman who’s a feminist living in a man’s shadow but determined to do right by her daughter.”
—Nell Beram, Shelf Awareness
“Entertaining. . . . Touching. . . . Readers will be swept along by Roper’s scrappy heroine.”
“At once hilarious and profoundly thoughtful, The Society of Shame is the reality check our social media-obsessed world needs right now. Jane Roper’s writing is funny, fearless, and fierce, and her book is like a much needed slap across the face of the metaverse. Get offline, pick up this book. You’ll thank me later.”
—Madi Sinha, author of At Least You Have Your Health
“Jane Roper has written a biting satire about (among other things) internet culture and our lust for rubbernecking. But at its heart, The Society of Shame is a serious novel about the search for female identity in middle age, and the unexpected ways a crude public spectacle can trigger moments of private revelation."
—Steve Almond, author of All the Secrets of the World
"Fans of Where'd You Go Bernadette and Dietland are sure to love The Society of Shame. This down-to-earth, biting, cinematic, and funny novel perfectly captures the many absurdities of our modern age and the indignities of middle age for women. With intelligence and a satirical eye for the just right detail, Roper lays bare the dangers of public scrutiny and leaves readers laughing, cringing, and nodding all at once."
—Heidi Pitlor, author of Impersonation and The Daylight Marriage, Series Editor of Best American Short Stories
"Jane Roper has written the kind of novel that women will buy for each other, read together, and savor. A hilarious, fleet-footed romp that skewers contemporary culture, marriage, politics, and more even as it reveals the fears and desires that so often pit us against each other and ourselves, The Society of Shame made me laugh, wince, and think at every turn. I loved this book."
—Anna Solomon, author of The Book of V and The Little Bride