SHELTER IN PLACE
It is the Saturday after the 2016 presidential election, and in a plush weekend house in Connecticut, an intimate group of friends, New Yorkers all, has gathered to recover from what they consider the greatest political catastrophe of their lives. They have just sat down to tea when their hostess, Eva Lindquist, proposes a dare. Who among them would be willing to ask Siri how to assassinate Donald Trump? Liberal and like-minded—editors, writers, a decorator, a theater producer, and one financial guy, Eva’s husband, Bruce—the friends have come to the countryside in the hope of restoring, away from the news cycle and the post-election delirium, the bubble in which they have grown used to living. Yet with the exception of one brash and obnoxious book editor, none is willing to accept Eva’s challenge.
Shelter in Place is a novel about house and home, furniture and rooms, safety and freedom and the invidious ways in which political upheaval can undermine even the most seemingly impregnable foundations. Eva is the novel’s polestar, a woman who moves through her days accompanied by a roving, carefully curated salon. She’s a generous hostess and more than a bit of a control freak whose obsession with decorating allows Leavitt to treat us to a slyly comic look at the habitués and fetishes of the so-called shelter industry. Yet when, in her avidity to secure shelter for herself, Eva persuades Bruce to buy a grand if dilapidated apartment in Venice, she unwittingly sets off the chain of events that will propel him, for the first time, to venture outside the bubble and embark on a wholly unexpected love affair.
A comic portrait of the months immediately following the 2016 election, Shelter in Place is also a meditation on the unreliable appetites—for love, for power, for freedom—by which both our public and private lives are shaped.
ON Shelter in Place
I’ve long been a fan of David Leavitt’s work, for its range, its depth, its smarts and its humor. He is a phenomenal and prescient writer.
“‘Humankind cannot stand very much reality.’ So a character in David Leavitt’s novel, Shelter in Place, quotes T. S. Eliot. Leavitt has written a brilliant comedy of manners about the convoluted ways that people of taste, affluence, privilege, breeding, etc. avoid looking too closely at their own part in said reality. Shelter in Place is a book about people who are essentially spectators, bystanders, but who wish to be more—to be people of action. Among the book’s themes are the relationship between altruism and self-preservation, and the highly ephemeral nature of a certain kind of sophistication.”
Bloomsbury (UK and Commonwealth)