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Eligible : a novel
2016
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Chapter 11   "YOUR MOTHER HAS shared a tragic piece of news about Cousin Willie with me," Mr. Bennet said when the family was assembled for dinner. "He's coming to visit." "Really, Fred," Mrs. Bennet said, and Jane said, "Dad, that's an awful way to set us up." Mr. Bennet smiled as if he'd been doubly complimented. "As you all know, my sister is flying out next week, to check if I still have a pulse and, in the event that I don't, to take possession of our mother's silver. For reasons that elude me, her stepson has decided to accompany her." Liz swallowed a spoonful of the gazpacho Jane had prepared and said, "I know you all find this hard to believe, but Cousin Willie is kind of a big deal." "And if I were an insomniac," Mr. Bennet replied, "I'd like nothing better than to hear him explain why." "Maybe he can tell us why the Internet in this house is so slow," Kitty said.  "Or teach Mom to use her cellphone," Lydia suggested. "His start-ups have made millions of dollars," Liz said, and Mr. Bennet said, "Yet he doesn't know how to put on a pair of trousers." "That was 1986," Jane said. Which indeed it had been--the summer before Liz had started sixth grade, the Bennets had made a trip to California to visit Mr. Ben- net's sister, Margo, and to meet the man to whom she had just become engaged, a widower with a three-year-old son. Someone (Mr. and Mrs. Bennet each vehemently denied responsibility) had decided it would be a lark to make the journey by car. Thus the Bennet family had set out from Cincinnati in their minivan, driving roughly five hundred miles a day for five days in a row; at the time, Jane was twelve, Liz eleven, Mary three, Kitty in utero, and Lydia not yet conceived. In Liz's memory, the trip was a blur of rolling hills becoming flattened prairies, flattened prairies becoming sprawling ranchlands, and ranchlands becoming scrubby desert. In Utah, a detour to see the red rock region had been scuttled due to increasing familial tensions; the mini-van's backseats had become a mayhem of hair-pulling, girl farts, and toddler squalls that distracted Liz from her powerful wish to reach the end of the tawdry romance she was reading in which a brooding Cheyenne loner inserted his fingers into the most private cavity of a young British heiress while they rode upon the same horse. Liz's utter thrall to Colt and Jocelyn's story compelled her to ignore a building nausea that eventually asserted itself with her crying out, "I'm going to be sick!" and vomiting an Egg McMuffin, hash browns, and ketchup onto Mary fifty miles northeast of Sacramento. Liz did sometimes wonder if their relationship had ever properly recovered, and insofar as it hadn't, she couldn't blame her sister. By the time the Bennets pulled into the driveway of the home be- longing to Aunt Margo's new fiancé in Sausalito, the minivan was strewn with food wrappers and socks and discarded Mad Libs books, not only reeking of vomit but also making an unaccountable scraping noise on the rear right side of the undercarriage; the Bennets' antipathy for one another was of such an intimate variety it was almost like affection. They spilled out of the car and walked up the brick path of a well-tended bungalow, but before they could ring the bell, the front door opened and a small red-haired boy stood before them completely naked. "Dad!" the boy yelled. "They're here!" His limbs were alabaster, his penis minuscule and, particularly to Mary, bewildering. "Look away, girls!" Mrs. Bennet cried, prompting in Liz and Jane a fit of giggles. This was Cousin Willie and also, obviously, Cousin Willie's willy. Over the years, the Bennets and the Collinses saw one another in- termittently, and at some point it became apparent that Cousin Willie was a bit of a technology savant. He taught himself to code at thirteen, began advising local businesses on how to bolster their Web presences at fifteen, and dropped out of UCLA during his sophomore year, after selling a company that had developed a proprietary format for transmitting data between servers and Web applications--which was to say, a company no Bennet understood whatsoever--for a rumored $20 million. Now a man of thirty, Willie was running his third or fourth software development start-up. And yet all of the Bennets except Liz and her mother refused to see him as anything other than a naked three-year-old. Mrs. Bennet was clearly intrigued by his money and had once asked Liz a series of probing questions about how he'd received the payment for his first company, questions to which Liz didn't know the answers. And Liz herself had some years back run into Willie at a technology conference in Las Vegas that she was attending as a journalist and had shared a surprisingly pleasant lunch with him; although the conversation had essentially been a monologue on his part, it had been an interesting monologue, and he was the person who had first told her about Twitter. At the dinner table, Mrs. Bennet said, "Jane, I imagine you'll be busy with Chip Bingley, but Liz can entertain Willie when he's here." "Why will Jane be busy with Chip Bingley?" Kitty asked. With relish, Mrs. Bennet said, "They're having dinner tomorrow night at Orchids." Uncertainly, Jane said, "Mom, you haven't been reading my texts, have you?" Merrily, Lydia said, "She doesn't know how!" Mrs. Bennet appeared uncontrite. "Helen Lucas mentioned it." Jane furrowed her eyebrows, which for her reflected genuine pique. "How would Mrs. Lucas know?" Liz cleared her throat. "I think I told Charlotte. But just in passing." "Chip and I might never see each other again after Saturday." Jane's cheeks were flushed. "So please, can everyone not make a big deal out of this? Mom, I'll have plenty of time to spend with Cousin Willie." "It was obvious that Chip found you absolutely charming, Jane," Mrs. Bennet said. "And so he should have. But you'll have to ask why he didn't go into private practice. Working in an emergency room, he must see very unattractive people." Liz, who felt some responsibility for displeasing her sister, said, "I wonder if Willie is interested in visiting the Freedom Center." "Just so you all know, I have a paper due at the end of next week," Mary said. "I won't have much time for Willie or Aunt Margo." "That's so heartbreaking," Lydia said. "I wonder if they'll ever re- cover from the devastation." "Well, I look forward to seeing both of them," Jane said. From the head of the table, Mr. Bennet said, "That makes one of us."     From the book ELIGIBLE by Curtis Sittenfeld. Copyright © 2016 by Curtis Sittenfeld. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
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Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

SPAIN IN OUR HEARTS: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, by Adam Hochschild. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15.99.) Hochschild, the author of "King Leopold's Ghost," structures this account of the conflict as a collective biography of Americans who fought for the Republican side. He investigates the romantic appeal of the cause and the reasons for its failure. HYSTOPIA, by David Means. (Picador, $18.) In this novel within a novel - framed as a manuscript by a fictional Vietnam veteran, Eugene Allen, written shortly before he committed suicide - John F. Kennedy is entering his third term as president and has founded a program, the Psych Corps, to treat traumatized soldiers. Allen's story centers on two corps agents who have fallen in love and set off to recover a young woman who has been abducted. LOUISA: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams, by Louisa Thomas. (Penguin, $18.) Born in London, the woman who married John Quincy Adams lived across Europe with her family, then her diplomat husband, before coming to the United States. These experiences helped set her apart, as did the trove of writing she left behind. Thomas draws on Louisa's memoirs, travelogues and extensive correspondence to offer a rich interior portrait. FOR A LITTLE WHILE: New and Selected Stories, by Rick Bass. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $18.99.) In this collection of tales, humans act on their animal natures, and the natural world is suffused with the holy; in one story, an ice storm and powerful arctic front leads a dog trainer and her client to an encounter with the sublime. As our reviewer, Smith Henderson, put it, Bass, "a master of the short form," writes not only "to save our wild places, but to save what's wild and humane and best within us." YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice, by Tom Vanderbilt. (Vintage, $16.95.) Vanderbilt, a journalist, has written a guide to the invisible forces shaping personal preferences - and the companies trying desperately to understand, and profit from, taste. Taste is both contextual and categorical, he argues, leading to a baffling capriciousness in what people like and why. ELIGIBLE, by Curtis Sittenfeld. (Random House, $17.) A retelling of "Pride and Prejudice" unfolds in the Cincinnati suburbs: Liz, a magazine writer in New York, comes home to find her family in disarray, and meets Darcy, now in the guise of a neurosurgeon from San Francisco who is profoundly underwhelmed by the Midwest. Sittenfeld's version seamlessly transplants Jane Austen's story to a modern American setting.

  Publishers Weekly Review

In Sittenfeld's amusing modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bennet writes for a women's magazine, Jane Bennet teaches yoga, Lydia and Kitty Bennet are CrossFit enthusiasts on paleo diets, heartthrob Chip Bingley is a reality-TV star, and Fitzwilliam Darcy is a neurosurgeon. Austen fans will recognize Liz and Darcy's instant dislike for each other, their serial misunderstandings and sexual tension, and Jane's quiet goodness, Bingley's sister's snobbishness, and Darcy's sister's vulnerability. Sittenfeld adeptly updates and channels Austen's narrative voice-the book is full of smart observations on gender and money. Reader Campbell handles the large cast of characters with ease, deftly portraying different personalities with different voices, most memorably the catty Caroline Bingley, the dryly sardonic Darcy, and the flustered, melodramatic Mrs. Bennet. This audiobook is a fun addition to the growing canon of P&P-inspired fiction, perfect for summer beach listening. A Random House hardcover. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  School Library Journal Review

With her latest, Sittenfeld has crafted an entertaining modern update of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, though one that at times strains credulity. Like their Regency counterparts, the 21st-century Bennets are approaching crisis-potential financial ruin as a result of Mr. Bennet's heart attack-but are blissfully oblivious. To put things right, Liz, a successful magazine writer, and Jane, a yoga teacher contemplating artificial insemination, return from New York City to the family home in Ohio. When Chip Bingley, the former star of a Bachelor-esque show and still single, enters the scene with his arrogant sister Caroline and the seemingly pompous Fitzwilliam Darcy in tow, it's clear that romance is on the horizon. While the story is compulsively readable, the pop culture references make it unwieldy at times. As always, Sittenfeld soars when it comes to portraying relationships, and teens will particularly enjoy the witty barbs that fly between Caroline and Liz. Often, however, the author's attempts to hew closely to Austen's plot result in some odd choices. Where in the original, Mrs. Bennet's desire to marry Lizzy off to the unctuous Mr. Collins stemmed from understandable motives, here, her insistence that Liz become involved with her cousin, a socially inept dotcom millionaire, is downright bizarre. Nevertheless, this is an overall breezy read that will have savvy teens laughing. VERDICT Although this work doesn't hold up under close scrutiny, it's an utterly engrossing, hilariously over-the-top send-up that will appeal to Sittenfeld fans, Janeites, and lovers of chick lit.-Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible both honors and updates Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice . Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Curtis Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today. <br> <br> This version of the Bennet family--and Mr. Darcy--is one that you have and haven't met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help--and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.<br> <br> Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master's degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won't discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane's fortieth birthday fast approaches.<br> <br> Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible . At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip's friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .<br> <br> And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.<br> <br> Praise for  Eligible <br> <br> "Even the most ardent Austenite will soon find herself seduced." -- O: The Oprah Magazine <br> <br> "Blissful . . . Sittenfeld modernizes the classic in such a stylish, witty way you'd guess even Jane Austen would be pleased." -- People (book of the week) <br> <br> "[A] sparkling, fresh contemporary retelling." -- Entertainment Weekly <br> <br> "A clever, uproarious evolution of Austen's story." -- The Denver Post <br> <br> "If there exists a more perfect pairing than Curtis Sittenfeld and Jane Austen, we dare you to find it. . . . Sittenfeld makes an already irresistible story even more beguiling and charming." -- Elle <br> <br> "Sittenfeld is an obvious choice to re-create Jane Austen's comedy of manners. [She] is a master at dissecting social norms to reveal the truths of human nature underneath." --The Millions <br> <br> "A hugely entertaining and surprisingly unpredictable book, bursting with wit and charm." -- The Irish Times<br> <br> "A delightful romp for not only Austen devotees but also lovers of romantic comedies and sly satire, as well . . . Bestselling Sittenfeld plus Jane Austen? What more could mainstream fiction readers ask for?" -- Booklist (starred review) <br> <br> "Endlessly amusing . . . Her take on Austen's iconic characters is skillful, her pacing excellent, and her dialog highly entertaining. . . . Austen fans will adore this new offering, a wonderful addition to the genre." -- Library Journal <br> <br> "An unputdownable retelling of the beloved classic." -- PopSugar<br> <br> "Sittenfeld adeptly updates and channels Austen's narrative voice--the book is full of smart observations on gender and money. . . . A clever retelling of an old-fashioned favorite." --Publishers Weekly <br> <br> "The modernization of this classic story allows for a greater and more humorous range of incompetency and quirks. . . . Delight in this tale for its hilarious and endearing family drama." -- Kirkus Reviews
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