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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Boys

ISBN: 9781954118140

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

by OrangeSky Audio

Narrator: BJ Harrison

Publication Date: 07/26/2022

Format: Audiobook

7 Hours, 19 Minutes, 12 Seconds

My Rating: 4 Stars ARC)


Anne Tyler meets Kevin Wilson in this novel for our time.

A tour-de-force novel about love, the yearning for connection, and the ways in which childhood trauma plays out in adult life.

When introverted Ethan Fawcett marries Barb, he has every reason to believe he will be delivered from a lifetime of solitude. She fills his world with a sense of adventure, expanding his horizons beyond his comfortable routine. Because Ethan fears becoming a father, one day Barb brings home two young brothers, Tommy and Sam, for them to foster, and Ethan immediately falls in love with the two boys. When the pandemic hits, he becomes obsessed with providing a perfect life for them. But instead of bringing Barb and Ethan closer together, the boys become a wedge in their relationship, as Ethan is unable to share with Barb a secret that has been haunting him since childhood. Then Ethan takes Tommy and Sam on a biking trip in Italy, and it becomes clear just how unusual Ethan and his children are.

This hauntingly beautiful debut novel—a bold and original high-wire feat—is "a treat with a surprise inside” (Publishers Weekly).

My Review

THE BOYS by Katie Hafner and audio narrated by B. J. Harrison is a charming, quirky, endearing tale of love while exploring the traumas of childhood and human connections.

Ethan is an introvert and now a grown man. He is married to Barb. He is anxious and worries about everything. He does not do well in social settings or engage in regular chit-chat.

While working as the chief technology officer at a startup in Philadelphia, Ethan meets Barb, a University of Pennsylvania grad student, and the two start dating. They soon marry, though Ethan knows he is not in her league.

He experienced some childhood trauma that he has carried into adulthood and has not been open about. His parent's died in an accident on vacation when in their late thirties, and the anniversary is approaching, which always is difficult for Ethan.

Ethan is a nerdy genius engineering geek, and Barb is an extrovert and research psychologist who studies loneliness among the elderly. He never thought much about being a father, but after trying with no luck and finding out he is sterile, there was always adoption.

Things change when his wife brings home two young twin brothers, Tommy and Sam (Russian orphans) , for them to foster temporarily.

The boys were supposed to give the couple a chance to practice parenthood before they launched into what they had just learned was not going to be the old-fashioned, easy way of making babies.

This new experience was quite scary for Ethan with the responsibility, but soon he became a loving father engaging with the boys in ways he never thought possible.

The pandemic hits, and Ethan becomes overly obsessed and protective of the boys, their schedules, and their lives. This draws a line between Barb and Ethan. Ethan spends so much time with the boys and engaging with them, but his wife seems distant and cold toward them and does not take time with them or make the necessary precautions like Ethan. Ultimately they separate, and Ethan keeps the boys.

In their early relationship, Barb and Ethan went to Italy on a memorable biking tour, and since he enjoyed it so much, he decided to take the boys after the pandemic travel restrictions are lifted.

However, there is a huge plot twist when all is revealed, and nothing is as it appears. Can Ethan and Barb find their way back to one another?

Beautifully rendered characters and evocative. From love, grief, isolation, and mental health.

A delightful and clever debut! I recommend going into the book blindly to enhance your reading experience. For fans of flawed characters and quirky literary fiction with humor. Fans of Elizabeth Berg and Fredrick Backman will enjoy. Perfect for beach summer reading/listening.

Thank you to #NetGalley and #OrangeSkyAudio for an ALC to listen to, enjoy, and review. The audio narrator, B. J. Harrison, was superb.

@JudithDCollins |#JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 4 Stars

Pub Date: July 26, 2022



"A brilliant, thoughtful novel that comes with perhaps the greatest shocker in recent literature (no spoiler alert). A superb meditation on loneliness and community."

—Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Our Country Friends

"Remarkable …. Starting out as a lighthearted romance before taking an unsettling turn, [The Boys] upends expectations in the best way." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Unexpectedly funny, touching, disarming—The Boys got under my skin from the very first page. Hafner is a wry and wise explorer of the secrets buried deep in our most intimate relationships. This novel will stay with me for a long time."

—Laura Zigman, author of Separation Anxiety

"Journalist and author Hafner's fiction debut is a striking entry to relationship fiction that is timely and optimistic. … With beautifully rendered characters and rich language, this is a treat, especially for fans of Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg.” Booklist

”Tender and emotionally intelligent . . . . An audacious feat of narrative bravado.”

—Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go Bernadette

”The Boys is utterly charming -- one of the most delightful books I have read in ages. As we bike through Italy's little villages with introvert Ethan Fawcett, stopping to drink a caffè shakerato as church bells ring in a mournful E flat, what we see around us is the wide and beautiful horizon of the human heart. I absolutely loved this little miracle of a book.

—Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistress of Paris

”This is a treat-yourself read, the tale of an endearing human on a hilariously misguided quest for love and connection, in the delight-filled tradition of Anne Tyler. But Hafner bakes a surprise into the center of her confection— a glorious, mind-blowing twist that propels the story to unexpected heights and depths. With exquisite compassion and humor, this novel leaves its readers deeply nourished, heart, mind, and soul.”

—Debra Jo Immergut, author of You Again and The Captives

About the Author

Photo credit: Christopher Michel

Katie Hafner was on staff at The New York Times for ten years, where she remains a frequent contributor, writing on healthcare and technology. She has also worked at Newsweek and BusinessWeek, and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Wired, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the author of five previous works of nonfiction covering a range of topics, including the origins of the Internet, computer hackers, German reunification, and the pianist Glenn Gould.

Her first novel, The Boys, will be published by Spiegel & Grau in July 2022. She is currently working on a book of essays about taking up the game of golf.

On top of the Our Mothers Ourselves podcast, Katie is the creator and host of Lost Women of Science, a new narrative podcast that illuminates the lives of remarkable female scientists whose stories have been lost to history. WEBSITE

What’s with Those Boys? Katie Hafner Is Asking.

by Louisa Ermelino | Apr 15, 2022

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Katie Hafner, a seasoned journalist and the author of six nonfiction books, tells me she gave up on writing a novel when, as a young girl, she read Sylvia Plath’s Letters Home. “I thought, I could never do this. But I’ve mellowed and am not so harsh with myself. Maybe I’m not Sylvia Plath, but I can still do it.”

And she has, brilliantly: her debut novel, The Boys, is forthcoming in July from the revamped Spiegel & Grau, which launched as an independent publisher in December 2020 after being a longtime Penguin Random House imprint. It’s Spiegel & Grau’s first acquired novel and the first one it’s publishing. READ MORE







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