The Mandibles

by Lionel Shriver · read August 22, 2022


This book was super bizarre but surprisingly engrossing. The basic premise is that the American dollar loses all value, the country's economy collapses, and the main characters (The Mandibles) have to survive a world turned on its head. I think the ideas and themes of the book were really interesting to me — I've always felt like having money gives you a certain kind of immunity from incredibly terrible things happening to you, but that's precisely the opposite in this story. It was a good reminder to not take things for granted, and to question the assumption that the future will largely resemble the present. The novel itself was a bit weird — the first few chapters predominantly consist of long dialogues about economics, the racial subplot was odd and felt forced, and the second part of the novel (which devolves into dystopia) had only a tenuous connection to the first. Still, I enjoyed it.

There was nothing astonishing about things not working, about things falling apart. Failure and decay were the world's natural state. What was astonishing was anything that worked as intended, for any duration whatsoever.

Julia Cooke © 2023