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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Humanity Project: A Novel

A good friend of mine sent me an email telling me I had to read Jean Thompson's The Humanity Project right away. So I did.

Will people be good if you pay them? That's the idea behind The Humanity Project, started by a widow with too much money and a need to help the world. She taps her nurse, Christie, to head it up. Christie quickly becomes overwhelmed by what it takes to run an organization. Her personal life is also a mess, having to often fend off the advances of her neighbor, Art, a Peter Pan whose estranged teenage daughter is suddenly thrust upon him after becoming an up-front witness to her school shooting. A series of connections brings everyone together to explore whether or not humanity can be saved--and at what cost.

This was a great vacation book. The right size, the right cast of characters, and the right emotional level. I was so engaged with Thompson's storytelling that it was hard to walk away from the book to get dinner. Her dark humor and overt recognition of the nonsense of the world, such as charities that are so focused on getting donors they forget who they originally set out to feed and care for, was right on the money.

Linnea, the teenager sent away by her Midwestern family after she becomes too much to handle, is in such a devastated state that even she is sure no one can help her. Witnessing the killing of her stepsister by the shooter is too much for her to bear, so she turns her anger outward. I loved the relationship between Linnea and Art when Linnea is suddenly thrown into Art's world after ten years apart. The dynamic between a rebellious teenager and a father that just won't grow up was so honest.

I also really enjoyed the Christie character. She felt so authentic and her struggles with wanting to good with having to run an organization really hit home. The disillusionment that comes when you realize that you can't do all the good you set out to do is disheartening, and Thompson really makes it truthful in her writing.

Kindle on left, hard copy on right.

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