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Book review: 'The Land of Steady Habits' by Ted Thompson

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Literature abounds with stories of teens and twenty-somethings making wild, rash decisions and perpetually upending their lives. But what if that "coming-of-age" period doesn’t come in someone’s twenties? Or even in his or her thirties? Ted Thompson’s debut novel, "The Land of Steady Habits," stars Anders Hill, a man in his early sixties who has demolished his pristine, picture-perfect life in search of a more fulfilling one.

Anders divorces his wife and settles into a new condo and early retirement in this novel set in a class- and money-focused town in Connecticut. Formerly a commuter working in finance, Anders seeks solace in solitude, much to the dismay of his grown children. Thompson’s novel deals primarily with relationships and characters who feel lost in the world. Anders isn’t the only one who can’t seem to find himself – his younger son Preston is still struggling to take care of himself at the age of 33, and Charlie, the teenage son of his ex-wife’s best friend is also troubled and develops an odd friendship with Anders. Thompson deftly works his way through the lives of a complex cast of characters, setting up collisions between them in which the reader witnesses the confrontations and consequences.

Although his characters are not always likeable, they still manage to be sympathetic; additionally, Thompson’s understanding of both language and the human psyche shine in this powerful first novel. Ted Thompson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where he was a Truman Capote fellow, and his stories have been featured in "Tin House," "American Short Fiction," and "Best New American Fiction."


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