Wolf at the Table


By Adam Rapp

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The Corrections meets We Need to Talk About Kevin in this harrowing multigenerational saga about a family harboring a serial killer in their midst in this “masterful novel” that “peers into the dark heart of America” (Richard Ford, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Independence Day)
As late summer 1951 descends on Elmira, New York, Myra Larkin, thirteen, the oldest child of a large Catholic family, meets a young man she believes to be Mickey Mantle. He chats her up at a local diner and gives her a ride home. The matter consumes her until later that night, when a triple homicide occurs just down the street, opening a specter of violence that will haunt the Larkins for half a century.

As the siblings leave home and fan across the country, each pursues a shard of the American dream. Myra serves as a prison nurse while raising her son, Ronan. Her middle sisters, Lexy and Fiona, find themselves on opposite sides of class and power. Alec, once an altar boy, is banished from the house and drifts into oblivion. As he becomes an increasingly alienated loner, his mother begins to receive postcards full of ominous portent. What they reveal, and what they require, will shatter a family and lead to devastating reckoning.

Through one family’s pursuit of the American dream, Wolf at the Table explores our consistent proximity to violence and its effects over time. Pulitzer Prize finalist Adam Rapp writes with gorgeous acuity, cutting to the heart of each character as he reveals the devastating reality beneath the veneer of good society.

  • “With the story of the Larkin family, Rapp spares nothing in his attempt to explain what most of us want to believe is the inexplicable . . . How does a boy from a seemingly normal family become a mass murderer? Rapp takes us there, step by step . . . This novel gets dark fast . . . Year after year, family members pretend not to see what their hearts know to be true, as the increasingly troubled Alec becomes a cruel and dangerous man . . . Ignoring alarming signs may sound indefensible, but Rapp knows most families are more complicated than that. He trusts his readers to know that, too . . . Rapp delivers a narrative that, even at its most shocking, is all too realistic.”
    New York Times Book Review
  • "“Richly imagined . . . A provocative but intimate domestic yarn . . . The scope and tone of Wolf at the Table suggest that emotional repression is America’s most reliable trait. Its cousin, violence, is a close second . . . A grim, engrossing new novel . . . It’s a brash, widescreen achievement. Wolf joins a fine (if fading) tradition of robust American family sagas mastered by Jonathan Franzen, Jane Smiley, and — especially — Joyce Carol Oates . . . Rapp is deft at slowly introducing the horrors that eventually consume this family . . . Wolf isn’t explicitly political, but the book’s themes are attuned to a time when our social fractures seem persistent and irreparable . . . Wolf at the Table ends tragically, with plenty of doom for everybody. But it also suggests that everybody is on a moral spectrum, searching for some kind of goodness. It’s a novel unromantically but diligently looking for hope — some good luck — in a broken home and a broken nation.”
    Washington Post
  • "Prolific writer and playwright Rapp delivers this haunting novel following the Larkin family over 60 years, as their lives intertwine with violence and mental illness . . . This literary page-turner will invite a variety of readers."
  • "Adam Rapp explores the darkest impulses of the American psyche in his decade-spanning novel . . . Rapp has a gift for contained set pieces and fluid, believable dialogue . . . The best part of Wolf at the Table is its touching portrayal of Myra Lee, a character loosely based on the author’s mother."
    Wall Street Journal
  • “Beautifully told . . . A gothic tale of murder, madness, and intergenerational conflict . . . Wolf at the Table channels the spirit of Cormac McCarthy . . . Rapp can write up a storm . . . He is a sharp and witty observer, and his narrative commands attention.”
  • "Rapp's novel is at once a big, bold story of where we come from and how we get where we're going and also a fascinating look at coping with evil in the places that are supposed to keep us safe."
    Town & Country
  • "Consistently gripping and difficult to put down . . . In Wolf at the Table, acclaimed filmmaker, playwright, and Pulitzer Prize finalist Adam Rapp brings his attention for suspense to the page in this multigenerational tale about a family harboring a serial killer."
    Chicago Review of Books
  • Wolf at the Table is a masterful novel—strange and affecting, and immersive reading. Adam Rapp peers into the dark heart of America with shrewd and eerie grace, the likes of which I have not encountered since Kosiński.”
    Richard Ford, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Independence Day and Canada
  • "A somber tale of drama, crime, and family dynamics."
    Daniel Island News
  • Praise for Know Your Beholder
  • "More often than any book I can easily recall, Rapp's novel had me laughing like a fool, embarrassing myself each time I unthinkingly brought it out in public. Perhaps more surprisingly, that humor felt entirely natural—born organically from the idiosyncrasies of the characters themselves rather than foisted on them... Rapp mostly dredges comedy from Francis' peculiar ways of seeing the world and from the mundanely weird people who populate it."
  • "Rapp's novel is surprisingly high-spirited, comic without diminishing the emotional depth of his motley crew. That''s largely thanks to Rapp's gift for figurative language."
    Washington Post
  • "Rapp is such a skillful and evocative writer he can make magic out of the ordinary stuff of daily life... Know Your Beholder has a surprisingly satisfying finish on multiple levels... It's nothing less than masterful."
    Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • "Know Your Beholder is funny and sad, smart and moving, dark and hopeful. Adam Rapp writes with a lyrical acumen and wit that are not just impressive, but immensely engaging."
    Jonathan Tropper, New York Times bestselling author of This Is Where I Leave You and One Last Thing Before I Go
  • "Know Your Beholder is a message from the heart and from the beard, a message from the new weird America to every guy who's ever spent too much time in his bathrobe and every women who's ever considered what that guy would look like if he actually got himself together and shaved. Adam Rapp knows about laughing to keep from crying. He's a melancholy Lenny Bruce of the sentence and his imagination is never less than intense."
    Hari Kunzru, author of the national bestseller The Impressionist

On Sale
Mar 19, 2024
Page Count
400 pages

Adam Rapp

About the Author

An acclaimed playwright, Adam Rapp was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his play Red Light Winter and a Tony Award finalist for The Sound Inside. He is the recipient of the Benjamin H. Danks Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among other honors. In addition to his numerous plays, he is the author of the novels Know Your Beholder and The Year of Endless Sorrows and several YA novels, including Under the Wolf, Under the Dog, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. For television, he has written and produced for The L Word, In Treatment, and The Looming Tower and is currently executive producer and showrunner for American Rust: Broken Justice. Born in Chicago and raised in nearby Joliet, Illinois, Rapp now splits his time between New York City and upstate New York.

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