Excerpt from The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Interestings

by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2013, 480 pages
    Mar 2014, 544 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Briefly, in that summer of 1974, when she or any of them looked up from the deep, stuporous concentration of their one- act plays and animation cels and dance sequences and acoustic guitars, they found themselves staring into a horrible doorway, and so they quickly turned away. Two boys at camp had copies of All the President's Men on the shelves above their beds, beside big aerosol cans of Off! and small bottles of benzoyl peroxide meant to dash flourishing, excitable acne. The book had come out not long before camp began, and at night when the teepee talk wound down into sleep or rhythmic, crickety masturbation, they would read by flashlight. Can you believe those fuckers? they thought.

This was the world they were meant to enter: a world of fuckers. Julie Jacobson and the others paused before the doorway to that world, and what were they supposed to do—just walk through it? Later in the summer Nixon would lurch away, leaving his damp slug trail, and the entire camp would watch on an old Panasonic that had been trundled into the dining hall by the owners, Manny and Edie Wunderlich, two aging Socialists who were legendary in the small, diminishing world of aging Socialists.

Now they were gathering because the world was unbearable, and they themselves were not. Julie allowed herself another slight degree of movement, crossing and recrossing her arms. But still no one turned and insisted on knowing who had invited this awkward, redheaded, blotchy girl in. Still no one asked her to leave. She looked around the dim room, where everyone was mostly inert on the bunks and on the wooden slats of the floor, like people in a sauna.

Ethan Figman, thick bodied, unusually ugly, his features appearing a little bit flattened, as if pressed against a mime's invisible glass wall, sat with his mouth slack and a record album in his lap. He was one of the first people she'd noticed after her mother and sister drove her up here days earlier. He had been wearing a floppy denim hat then, and he greeted everyone around him on the lawn, grabbing the ends of trunks, allowing himself to be smashed into platonic hugs with girls and soul handshakes with other boys. People cried out to him, "Ethan! Ethan!" and he was pulled toward each voice in turn. "That boy looks ridiculous," Julie's sister, Ellen, said quietly as they stood on the lawn, fresh out of their green Dodge Dart and the four- hour drive from Underhill. He did look ridiculous, but Julie already felt the need to be protective of this boy she didn't know.

"No he doesn't," she said. "He looks fine."

They were sisters, only sixteen months apart, but Ellen, the older one, was dark- haired, closed- faced, and held surprisingly condemnatory opinions, which had often been dispersed in the small ranch house where they lived with their mother, Lois, and, until that winter, their father, Warren, who had died of pancreatic cancer. Julie would always remember what sharing close quarters with a dying person had been like; particularly what it had been like sharing the single, peach- colored bathroom that her poor father had apologetically monopolized. She had begun to get her period when she was fourteen and a half—much later than anyone else she knew—and she found herself in need of the bathroom at times when it wasn't available. Huddling in her bedroom with an enormous box of Kotex, she thought of the contrast between herself, "emerging into womanhood," according to the movie that the gym teacher had shown the girls much earlier, in sixth grade, and her father, emerging into something else that she didn't want to think about but which was upon her at all times.

In January he was dead, which was a grinding torment and also a relief, impossible to focus on or stop thinking about. Summer approached, still unfilled. Ellen didn't want to go anywhere, but Julie couldn't just sit at home all summer feeling like this and watching her mother and sister feel like this; it would lead to madness, she decided. At the last minute, her English teacher suggested this camp, which had an open spot and agreed to take Julie on scholarship. Nobody in Underhill went to camps like this one; not only wouldn't they have been able to afford it, it wouldn't have occurred to them to go. They all stayed home and went to the local bare- bones day camp, or spent long days oiled up at the town pool or got jobs at Carvel or loafed around their humid houses.

Excerpted from The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. Copyright © 2013 by Meg Wolitzer. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  New York City in the 1970s

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Crossing the Horizon
    Crossing the Horizon
    by Laurie Notaro
    In Crossing the Horizon, Laurie Notaro takes us back to a time when flying was a rare and risky ...
  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.