ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF THE YEAR
Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, Parade, Library Journal, Harper’s Bazaar and more
“Profound and affecting.”—Chloe Benjamin
“Broken People leads us through the winds of time and memory to offer a riveting portrait of transformation. I am better for having read it.”—Jamie Lee Curtis
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.
Lansky follows his addiction memoir The Gilded Razor with a riveting novel about an L.A. writer named Sam who recently published a memoir about his drug and alcohol addiction. Sam, 28, and a friend plan to visit a shaman in Portland, Ore., on the strength of a testimonial that the shaman "fixes everything wrong with you in three days." With humor, verve, and cut-to-the-bone revelations, Lansky takes readers on an enthralling adventure as Sam reckons with his anxiety and discomfort with his body. Over three days in Portland, thanks to the shaman's perspicacious insight, drumbeating, chanting, and careful administration of ayahuasca, Sam enters a mode of deep self-reflection. Lansky's mesmerizing descriptions are unflinchingly raw as Sam examines his life choices, his self-obsession, and his mistreatment of men in his life, particularly Charles, his first real love. Lansky also offers a canny snapshot of modern gay life, with the specter of HIV hovering over intimate relationships. While Sam's whining about his body occasionally grates, the author keeps the reader on his side with an endless supply of wit. Lansky's tale of self-acceptance offers surprising depth.
Unclear and heavy at times, but helpful
I didn’t find myself that invested in Sam. He wasn’t a likable character, and I wasn’t invested in him enough to care if he succeeded or failed. He isn’t easy to cheer for, but I guess it’s the point. A good, useful message for identifying that toxic narrative inside of all of us. I enjoyed it.