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“FIERCELY FUNNY AND ORIGINAL..Like a medium or a mole, [Friedman] seems to inhabit the brains of her complex and deeply flawed characters, always salvaging something worthwhile…Characters as realistic and finely drawn as these ones are a stunning accomplishment. …The situations, too, feel as though they could have actually occurred. It’s never an easy thing to find this much light in the darkness, and Friedman should be applauded for succeeding so adeptly in this tragicomic balancing act…straightforward without being simplistic, heartbreaking without being maudlin and wildly funny without sacrificing depth.” — The National Post
The Answer to Everything is tragicomedy at its best. The novel is packed with sadness, but readers will mostly laugh. The notion of a cult is rarely considered beyond the black-and-white theories of mind control, but Friedman succeeds in injecting colour to the issue by creating richly conceived characters with compelling and sympathetic motives. By the end of the novel it becomes easy to see how a “normal” person could get wrapped up in something so crazy and perhaps even drink the Kool-Aid. — The Toronto Star
“Elyse Friedman has always been a daringly inventive and hilarious writer. With THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING, she proves herself to be a first-rate storyteller in the bargain. Not even five pages into novel I found myself ensnared by her disarming characters and their poignantly misguided yearnings. By the last page I was convinced that Friedman is a fictional force unto herself. Certainly, she is like no other writer I can think of.” — Barbara Gowdy
“The Answer to Everything is compelling proof that Elyse Friedman is one of Canada’s best and most crucial writers. Both cynical and searching, it’s a hilarious yet deeply moving portrait of an upstart cult gone wrong — it drew me in from page one but never let me settle, continually surprising me and challenging my take on things. It puts its players through the same paces, and the result is a cast of some of the most memorable characters I’ve met in a long time. It feels urgently timely, too — a book that I’ll be recommending far and wide.” — Melanie Little
“This book seized me by the throat: the attack ended when I read the last page. I say this with joy. Friedman is one of a very small group of addictively readable, lyrical, fiercely intelligent and funny writers.” — Lynn Crosbie
“A compelling, modern tragicomic novel that, like all of Friedman’s work, betrays a deep empathy while it delights in human foibles. What’s most striking is how real it all feels–step into this story and you’re caught.” — Gil Adamson
John Aarons, a gifted artist (and even more gifted freeloader), knows how to seize an opportunity when he spies one. Turned out on the street by his fully-employed, entirely fed up girlfriend, he goes on the hunt for cheap shared accommodation and stumbles upon the ideal set up: a bedroom in the home of Amy, a single and attractive psychology student. Not only does Amy have an affordable penthouse apartment, she also has a mysterious neighbour, Eldrich, who is visited by an assortment of callers, all bearing offerings of food, wine or cash—contributions, John discovers, made in exchange for spiritual guidance.
That’s when John gets a brilliant idea: start a cult with Eldrich as guru. And so as half art project, half money-making scheme, The Answer Institute is born. With Amy as a partner in the enterprise, the cult flourishes and grows exponentially, attracting a wide range of broken, strange and spiritually hungry individuals, including an obscenely wealthy Singaporean ex-pat, a psilocybin-dealing drifter and the hunky star of a hit TV series. But as Eldrich begins to embrace his role as Leader with a tad too much zeal (introducing his followers to bizarre sexual rituals) and Amy becomes progressively enamoured of the funds pouring into the coffers, John has to decide how far he’s willing to go for his art.