A Calling for Charlie Barnes

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

From the Booker-shortlisted author of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour comes a novel about fathers, sons, thwarted dreams and confronting the reality of who we really are

Charlie Barnes is a mid-century man devoted to his newspaper and his landline. But Charlie is about to get dragged into our troubled age by his storyteller son, who has a different idea of him than he has of himself. Then there are his other children, his ex-wives, present wife, business clients, friends and acquaintances, all of whom have their competing opinions of Charlie.

He certainly seems simple enough: he’s a striver, a romantic, and a thoroughgoing capitalist. But suddenly blindsided by the Great Recession and a dose of bad news, he might have to rethink his life from top to bottom, and on short notice. What makes a man real? What makes him good? And how does the story we tell about ourselves line up with the lives that we actually live?

‘Funny, moving, and formally a work of genius, A Calling for Charlie Barnes is quite literally the book Joshua Ferris was born to write’ Garth Risk Hallberg, author of City on Fire

‘Dazzling. Mind-blowing. About as much fun as you can have without risking arrest’ Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls

‘Wonderful: fast and deep, urgent and brilliant . . . A hilarious, intimate, and scathing takedown of so many American vanities’ Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia

© Joshua Ferris 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021

Critics Review

  • A hilarious skewering of the American Dream by the man who must be the funniest writer we have

    Guardian, Best Books of 2021
  • Splendid . . . it is hard to be genuinely funny in a novel but the final 50 or so pages, in which Charlie’s family confront Jake Barnes, the fourth wall-breaking narrator of the novel, over the content of the tell-all memoir, was easily the most hilarious chapter of a novel I read all year

    Independent, 20 Best Books of 2021
  • Until I read A Calling For Charlie Barnes, Joshua Ferris’s virtuosic third novel, I couldn’t recall the last time a book caused me to both laugh and gasp aloud. Madly funny and bristling with intelligence, this is the story of a man in later life wallowing in the detritus of the American Dream and of the children witnessing his decline

    New Statesman, Books of the Year
  • Simultaneously narratively courageous and utterly hilarious . . . where it leaves the reader feels special and unique

    Sunday Times
  • In Ferris’s admirably risk-taking hands, this novel becomes so much more than simply another story of failed American dreams. Ferris has made himself into the leading writer of the American workplace . . . He understands both its absurdities (and this is another very funny book) and its rewards, but most of all he understands how it shapes modern America


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