The Antiques

A Novel

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About The Book

A family reunites after the death of its patriarch just as a hurricane tears through town in this “sparklingly funny novel about love, power, money, and adult siblings finding the beating heart of what matters most: one another” (People).

On the night of a massive hurricane, three estranged siblings learn that their father is dying. For the first time in years, they convene at their childhood home in upstate New York, where the storm has downed power lines, flooded houses, and destroyed the family’s antique store.

The Westfalls are no strangers to dysfunction. But never have their lives felt so out of control. Armie is living in their parents’ basement. In Manhattan, Josef, a sex-addicted techie, is struggling to repair his broken relationship with his daughters. Their sister, Charlie, who works in Hollywood as a publicist for a wayward young actress, just learned that her son has been expelled from preschool. Amid the storm, they come together to plan their father’s memorial service, only to learn his dying wish—they must sell his priceless Magritte painting. As their failures are laid bare, they discover that hope often lurks in the darkest of places. And so, too, can hilarity.

Complete with an irresistible plot and deeply flawed, affectionately rendered characters, Kris D’Agostino’s “sharp, funny [novel] conveys the disorienting and ever-shifting effects of grief” (The New York Times) and the unexpected epiphanies that emerge in chaos. This “darkly humorous portrait of the American family under duress…balances scathing and humorous commentary on the foibles of family with keen insight” (Publishers Weekly). Perfect for “fans of funny family dysfunction novels like Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You...and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest” (Booklist), The Antiques is a heartbreaking, nimble, laugh-out-loud funny send-up of modern family life.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Antiques includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. We hope that these questions will enrich your reading group’s conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Kris D’Agostino’s The Antiques is an emotionally reverberant portrait of an American family in chaos. On the eve of a massive super storm, George Westfall lays dying. His three adult children have drifted apart, and his wife is fighting to protect the family’s struggling antiques business. The novel tracks a week in the lives of the Westfall children as they return to the family home after their father’s death. Josef, a sex-addicted tech executive is struggling to make amends with his ex-wife. Charlie, his sister, is living in LA and working for a conceited Hollywood starlet. Their youngest brother, Armie, is living in the family’s basement, haunted by the ghosts of his past. As the family comes together to mourn the loss of their father and sell off his heirloom Magritte painting, they experience the unexpected epiphanies that can emerge in grief and reconnect with the core values that shaped them.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. What is the significance of setting the story on the eve of a hurricane? How does D’Agostino use nature to reflect the Westfalls’ emotional topography?

2. What do you make of the novel’s title? How are the Westfalls attempting to enact an outmoded, antique ideal of family?

3. Though The Antiques is a story about loss and grief, D’Agostino constantly leavens the narrative with sharp humor. How does this emotional interplay mirror the process of mourning? Were there any moments in the book where you laughed out loud?

4. Why do you think D’Agostino chose to structure the timeline of the book over the span of a few days? Does this condensed scope add a layer of immediacy to the narrative?

5. Does Josef embody the stereotype of the oldest child? Did his behavior strike you as striving or immature?

6. How does Charlie serve as a foil to Josef? How does Armie?

7. What role does faith play in the novel? Is Ana’s Catholicism more about ideology or the comfort of ritual?

8. How is D’Agostino’s depiction of Melody Montrose a commentary on the nature of Hollywood celebrity? Why do you think Melody undergoes such a dramatic transformation when she arrives in Hudson?

9. What did you think of Charlie as a mother and the way she handles Abbott’s behavioral issues? How is Charlie seen as the novel’s central caregiver?

10. What is the true value of the Westfalls’ Magritte painting? In what way does the painting, despite the final appraisal, actually prove priceless?

11. The Westfalls are a flawed, complex yet ultimately likeable family. Which character did you find the most sympathetic?

12. Why do you think D’Agostino chose to end the novel with the launch of the rocket? Did you find the end satisfying?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. The Antiques is part of a vibrant tradition of dysfunctional family novels. Consider the book alongside works by Jonathan Franzen, Meg Wolitzer, Emma Straub, and Jonathan Tropper. What, collectively, do these books have to say about the American family?

2. Pair The Antiques with movies like The Family Stone or The Royal Tennenbaums. How is the novel borrowing the tropes of the classic films of family dysfunction? Does D’Agostino’s writing feel cinematic to you?

3. René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist known for depicting ordinary objects in novel, amusing, and unexpected ways. Explore Magritte’s oeuvre. How are his artistic gestures in keeping with D’Agostino’s portrait of the Westfalls? Does Magritte’s vision open up new ways of contextualizing The Antiques?

About The Author

Photograph by Shawn Brackbill

Kris D’Agostino holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He is the author of The Antiques and The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac. He lives in Brooklyn.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (December 2017)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501138980

Raves and Reviews

“D’Agostino’s sparklingly funny novel is about love, power, money and adult siblings find the beating heart of what matters most: one another.”—People

"The Antiques is a literary hurricane of hilarity, heartbreak, and familial redemption.  Kris D’Agostino juggles a stolen model-rocket, a patriarchal funeral, a runaway movie actress, and a potentially priceless painting all the way to the novel’s very satisfying ending.  The Westfall family could be the Tenenbaums of Upstate New York."--Nickolas Butler, internationally bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs and The Hearts of Men

"Kris D’Agostino presents a funhouse mirror in The Antiques, delivering a cast of characters at once utterly familiar and completely absurd. But the real magic here is the fact that these people are still so dear. D’Agostino elevates this novel from a funny story about a dysfunctional family to a bright examination of the American man and woman. The Antiques is witty, charming and delightful, but in critiquing the choices we make as moderns, it packs a firm punch."--Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine

"Kris D’Agostino’s The Antiques is about family and how -- no, wait, it’s not one of those treacly, warmed-over novels about family. It’s witty and trenchant and dark and stylish, the black sheep of the family-novel genre, the one who’s not invited to Thanksgiving but crashes it anyway to the delight of the younger relatives and the horror of the elders." -- Teddy Wayne, author of Loner and The Love Song of Johnny Valentine

“The death of a family patriarch and an impending hurricane create a perfect literary storm in this wonderfully wise and darkly comic novel. I love this story of family, friendship, loss and redemption. Most of all, despite their sometimes hilarious flaws, I love the Westfalls.”--Ann Leary, New York Times bestselling author of The Good House

The Antiques is a keenly observed, eminently readable, all-kinds-of-funny ride, and I urge you to take it.”—New York Times bestselling author of West of Here and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel

"In The Antiques, Kris D'Agostino introduces us to a messy, delinquent, outrageous family plunged into mourning when the patriarch dies. While other writers might see this as an opportunity to throw ashes of grief on their characters' heads, D'Agostino comes at us briskly, shaking our hand with a joy buzzer. This book also reminds us that life and laughter still continue even after our loved ones have left us. The Antiques is an exuberant, lusty novel that had me laughing in the most inappropriate places. I loved it!"—David Abrams, author of the New York Times Notable book Fobbit

The Antiques is a keenly observed, eminently readable, all-kinds-of-funny ride, and I urge you to take it.”—Jonathan Evison, New York Times bestselling author of West of Here and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel

"A perfect drama for readers who liked Herman Koch's The Dinner and Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings."--Library Journal

"A darkly humorous portrait of the American family under duress....D'Agostino  balances scathing and humorous commentary on the foibles of family with keen insight into his characters.”--Publishers Weekly

"[A] humorous novel..with funny, crisp dialogue...will indubitably appeal to fans of funny family dysfunction novels like Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You...and Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest."--Booklist

“A funny, perceptive story about the surprisingly strong bonds holding together a disparate family who gather after the death of its patriarch.”--Shelf Awareness

"Spend a week with the Westfalls, the feisty clan at the center of Kris D’Agostino’s second novel, “The Antiques,” and you may feel better about your own family...very funny."--News Day

“There’s not a sluggish moment in Kris D’Agostino’s second novel . . . with sharp, funny dialogue that never seems formulaic. More impressively, he conveys the disorienting and ever-shifting effects of grief.”--New York Times

:If you love Emma Straub’s novels, pick up The Antiques by Kris D’Agostino as quickly as you can."--LitHub

"Sharp as a mean older sister’s comeback and witty as the brother who always gets under your skin, The Antiques is dark humor delivered lightly, and at a quick clip that makes it hard to put down."--The Rumpus

"Fast-paced, dark and funny."--Largehearted Boy

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