Broken People by Sam Lansky
Published: June 9, 2020 by Hanover Square Press
Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Synopsis: A groundbreaking, incandescent debut novel about coming to grips with the past and ourselves, for fans of Sally Rooney, Hanya Yanagihara and Garth Greenwell
“He fixes everything that’s wrong with you in three days.”
This is what hooks Sam when he first overhears it at a fancy dinner party in the Hollywood hills: the story of a globe-trotting shaman who claims to perform “open-soul surgery” on emotionally damaged people. For neurotic, depressed Sam, new to Los Angeles after his life in New York imploded, the possibility of total transformation is utterly tantalizing. He’s desperate for something to believe in, and the shaman—who promises ancient rituals, plant medicine and encounters with the divine—seems convincing, enough for Sam to sign up for a weekend under his care.
But are the great spirits the shaman says he’s summoning real at all? Or are the ghosts in Sam’s memory more powerful than any magic?
At turns tender and acid, funny and wise, Broken People is a journey into the nature of truth and fiction—a story of discovering hope amid cynicism, intimacy within chaos and peace in our own skin.
Review: I gave up on this book about halfway through. It was just boring. It wasn’t so awful that I felt I needed to give it one star, and the writing was somewhat competent, but it was really pointless. Another point that hindered this book is that it read like a poorly disguised memoir and the audiobook was voiced by the author. It was monotone and came across as whiny.
The first 20% of this audiobook was about the main character, Sam, whining to his friends. And his friends whining back at him. Seriously, we spent (what felt like) hours hearing his friends drone on and on about their pointless lives. Brand name clothes they bought, disappointing lovers they had, drugs they did recently, bad parties they attended, and on and on. At one point I forgot to put it on pause and walked away for 20 minutes and when I returned had no idea that I’d missed anything because we were STILL WHINING when I got back.
I thought things would pick up once we got to the shaman. That was mildly more interesting until Sam has a conversation with his friend about whether it’s a moral problem to see a white shaman who was using rituals inspired by indigenous people. And his friend replies (not an exact quote but close), “Well yeah, probably, but capitalist worshippers are screwing over everyone anyway so whatever.”
It was just so asinine. Nothing actually happens. Then I realized what happened when I read a few other reviews. Sam wrote a memoir, by all accounts a profound one. He approaches his editor (this is real life Sam, not character Sam) and says he wants to write a memoir. His editor replies, “Sam, buddy, memoir sequels are not really a thing. So that’s a no.” So Sam went home and wrote this memoir and then called it fiction.
In the end this was nothing more than a young white male whining about the endless privileges he enjoys. It was boring. I didn’t want to read an entire book about Sam’s self loathing and woes about being a prep school graduate who would consider a dusty condo in the middle of Manhattan to be slumming.