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The Cave Dwellers

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Member Reviews

This book checked lots of boxes for what would normally be a book I would love but it fell short for a few reasons. The biggest reason that pushed me away from loving this book was the amount of characters. There were SO many characters and although their storylines all intersected sometimes it was just too much to keep up with. I think there is a basis for a good story here but it gets lost in all of the extra
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It always breaks my heart to leave negative feedback, but I found nothing in this novel that I enjoyed. I thought the story was cliched and the entire premise was trite. This is the literary equivalent of black licorice: I'm sure it's for someone, but I don't want it anywhere near me.
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Living so close to DC but not being one of the rich elite I was so interested in the premise of this novel! The characters fell a bit flat for me but I enjoyed the pace and would recommend it to others.
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I should have read the Afterword first before reading this book.  I found the author's own personal connections as well as her stated purpose for writing the book very interesting and admirable.  I felt that I understood where she was coming from and what she hoped to accomplish with this writing.

That said, the book was a very difficult read--not because of the subject matter, but because there were too many individual stories to follow..   I found myself having to go back and trace the various characters and make sure I kept their individual stories straight.  At first I thought the profiles of the characters and their behavior must be exaggerated; however, by the end of the book I thought perhaps they were not so much exaggerated as there were simply too many stories grouped within one small cluster of characters.   "Thinning out" to fewer individual stories and reducing the complexity of the plot would have helped----and the reader was left guessing as to who was guilty of the crime committed in the first chapter.  Strong hints were there but no real resolution....
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“The Cave Dwellers” by Christina McDowell

A Modern Classic! Literary, Fast-Paced, On Target & On Trend!  Brilliant!  A Must Read!

Razor-sharp satirical wit infused with heart-wrenching pathos sets the stage for Christina McDowell’s modern-day classical Greek comedy/drama, “The Cave Dwellers,” a fiercely allegorical literary fiction set in  Washington, D.C. and…possibly worthy of the notable genius of Aristophanes.

McDowell’s novel focuses on the movers and shakers of D.C.—those legacy, prime property owners, with the old-money lineages tracing to the original Jamestown and Mayflower settlers (and subsequent Revolutionary War heroes)—these McDowell calls, the cave dwellers, because of their wealth, exclusivity, privilege and extreme privacy.

The metaphor of the “cave dwellers” is borrowed from Greek philosopher, Plato.  In his masterwork on Stoicism, “The Republic,” Plato depicts the allegory of the cave as a symbolic mental prison for individuals who base their thinking on ideologies, perceptions and personal opinions, rather than on research, knowledge and analytical reasoning because such base human responses can only result in ignorance, and not in understanding.

In the “Cave Dwellers,” the symbolism of the cave dwellers is multi-pronged, representing not only some of the closed-minded beliefs and perceptions held by many of the characters, but also of the impregnable enclave the group represents.

When a home invasion leads to a horrific murderous rampage within the sanctuary of one D.C.’s elite neighborhoods, none of the other exclusive residents feel safe.  How could this have happened there?  Why?  Could they be next?

As cave dweller parents and their children grieve the losses of these friends and acquaintances, this gruesome and ghastly tragedy sets off a chain reaction of emotions and consequences—spiraling to unforeseen epiphanies, chaos and a dramatic conclusion.

I found the “The Cave Dwellers,” brilliant, on-trend, on-topic, and a thoroughly non-stop read.  I consumed the pages—just could not put it down!  

As I noted initially, this is a comedy/drama.  Aspects of the book are acerbic and hilariously funny.  The novel is totally absorbing, and definitely must be considered one of the best books of the year.  Beautifully written, it is literary, engaging, poignant and educational.  Brava!


The Book Maven’s Journal—Reviews for Word Connoisseurs

REVIEWER:                J.Hunt         
STAR RATING:            ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Now Available…
“The Cave Dwellers” By Christina McDowell
General Fiction / Literary Fiction                                        
Publication Date: 25 May 2021

My Sincere Appreciation Goes to NetGalley, Author Christina  McDowell, and Publishers Gallery Books/Scout Press and Simon & Schuster for Making Available this Advance Reader Copy for Review 

Book Reviews 
by TheBookMavenJoy 
are also on Goodreads.
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Unfortunately, this was a DNF for me. I just couldn't get into the book. I think a lot of it had to do with the writing style. I may try again in the future.
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Thank you to @netgalley and @scoutpressbooks for this #gifted e-arc in exchange for my honest review.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Well, I have to say I did not really enjoy this one... I think I need to learn that while I like books with more relational drama, I prefer it be somewhat tame rather than the really sad, life-altering type of political/familial drama that this book depicts.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The Cave Dwellers are the privileged Washington, DC elite who run the political show and feel they hold all the power. But when a family within their circle is brutally murdered, the wealthy DC neighborhood begins doubting the security they feel within not only their community, but their overall place in society. The children are spoiled, the parents possess a toxic sense of entitlement that is then passed down as a legacy to be picked up and carried on by the next generation. Yet, the world is changing, and these social climbers begin to realize the way they've existed in this life won't work the same way forever.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
So the author note at the end lets you know that Christina McDowell lived in this elitist DC world. This fictionalized story was definitely given a little more weight, as McDowell could speak quite directly to the racism, classism, elitism, etc. that takes place in this corner of society. I think this reality just added to how sad and painful all the drama in this book turned out to be for me.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I went in expecting more escapism and came out with more social commentary. More than anything this book felt a bit disheartening and I don't know if I walked away having learned much or having improved my mindset.⠀
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The ample comparisons to Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities are an accurate description of The Cave Dwellers.  There are elite circles throughout many large cities - subpopulations with their own sub-economies and unique ways of interacting - and this novel explores Washington, DC, always a center of power in the country but with increased focused in recent years.

As the distance has grown between the have and have nots in the US, McDowell's novel shines a light on just how privileged, disconnected, unappreciative, and unaware DC's elite are of life outside of their bubble.  Perhaps the worst are the offspring of these families because while their parents have likely some awareness of the outside world (albeit limited), the children have grown up completely isolated from their peers living very different lives.

In The Cave Dwellers, a brutal murder of a couple and their daughter creates a platform for the local high schoolers to pause and reflect on their life and world...or not.  Many continue with their parties and drugs and are happy to let an unknown black man, only a few years older than themselves, be accused and jailed.  But some are growing consciences and starting to question the racial and economic inequities in their midst.  Some are embarrassed by the systemic racism emanating out of their parents.

McDowell herself was raised in such a world in DC, and her life was disrupted when her own father was jailed for financial crimes.  I very much got the sense that this novel is both McDowell's way of processing her youth and using her unique lens into the world as an opportunity to shine a light on what she sees as wrong.  Painting an unpleasant picture of the people she grew up with and her own parents is not an easy decision for novelists and so this novel also feels courageous.  McDowell seems to say through her characters' actions that the only way for any of this dynamic to change is for the next generations of these families to take notice, question, and decide not to participate.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and found the story engaging.  I did - at times - find it difficult to differentiate some of the multitude of characters and am not sure the ending was the best option for settling the novel.
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The Cave Dwellers by Christina McDowell was an addicting read once it got going. At first, it was difficult to follow and keep track of so many characters and separate but loosely connected storylines but once those connections started to strengthen and characters began to become more developed. I couldn't seem to put it down. It is always interesting to dive into the lives of the most elite. This book explores the privileges that elitism brings and what can happen when it all goes terribly wrong. Things at the end felt a bit unfinished and I am not sure if that was intentional or happenstance but otherwise a recommended read.
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I wanted to love this book, it had so much promise.  But, the story was slow, writing wasn’t the greatest, and it ended just as the story was getting good.  Overall, it was disappointing.  

Washington, DC; old money, hidden secrets, racism, privilege, backstabbing, sex and drugs, not to mention cover-ups.  The author brought her first-hand knowledge of the area to this book, almost to the point where I don’t have to read her memoir!  What starts with a brutal murder of an elite Washington family, seems to get lost in the other dynamics of the old money families.  The children, while aware of their privilege and the blatant racism, really do nothing about it and know that Daddy will get them out of any trouble they find themselves in.  I would have loved to see one of the children stand up to the injustices they were seeing.  Not much character development, but I guess if you are threatened with losing your bankroll at a young age, it might be overwhelming.  Sad state of affairs.  Political statement made (reiterated), but no solutions offered.  

Thanks to Ms. McDowell, Galley/Scout Press and NetGalley for this ARC.  Opinion is mine alone.
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Gorgeous cover with an interesting premise. When I saw this touted as the "Gossip Girl of DC" I was all in. Being from the DC area myself I was interested by the local information and setting.

I made it a few chapters in but lost interest and couldn't make myself pick it up again.

I think this will really captivate some readers but others will get lost in the jumble.
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The Cave Dwellers was utterly entertaining. I felt like I was reading a real-life account of the wealthy covering their scandalous tracks mixed with the teenage vibes of Gossip Girl. I found myself devouring the book as fast as I could possibly read it. However, I was a bit disappointed with the way nothing felt resolved in the end. Hopefully that means there is a sequel in store! 

Thank you @netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book.
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This was definitely a case of not for me. I think I just had different expectations given the jacket copy, and it turned out to be a lot snarkier and more satirical than I expected. I liked the inside look at Washington, DC and the elite circles that exist there, but the tone was distracting and I found myself not caring about what happened. Would recommend this to people who like super quirky and satirical reads.
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I really, really disliked this book. It’s pretentious, poorly written, and just dripping in white privilege.

It started out somewhat promising: a dishy sort-of send-up of DC society centered on a gruesome murder mystery. About 1/2 of the way through, it turns into something else: a self-satisfying admission of white guilt and shame. The author clearly only recently realized the repercussions of being a wealthy white person in American society and, in a way of displaying her new wokeness, wrote half a book about it. I’m not speculating about this, either: there is an author’s note where she whines about the state of the country in 2020 and congratulates herself on reading “White Fragility”.

What started out as a mediocre society mystery turned into a disgusting display of white woman feminism, complete with self-congratulatory back pats and subtle demands for cookies.
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Cave Dwellers is a fun, fast read but the writing style feels choppy and disjointed. I felt that the writer had good intentions for the book but fell short in so many ways. It would have been better to have this made into a series of books instead of having a lot of information crammed into one book.
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Remember House of Cards? Like, season 1 House of Cards, when Netflix binging was just starting to be a thing; back before we all hated Kevin Spacey? 

If you loved seeing that narcissistic, dark side of Washington’s elite, this is the book for you. 

The Cave Dwellers follows several wealthy families in the aftermath of a grizzly murder of one of their own that shakes their cushioned world. While the adults strive to maintain normalcy,  and above all, hierarchy, their children wreak havoc as the question the way that things have always been done. 

The Cave Dwellers, inspired by McDowell’s own Washington upbringing (complete with a dad arrested for securities fraud - he even stole her SSN), unravels the District’s high society. She criticizes the classicism, privilege, and racism that she proves are the foundation, the beginning and end, of the rich socialites known as the Cave Dwellers. It’s well-written, compelling, and thought-provoking. Highly recommend!
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This was a romp of a read for a newcomer to DMV from NYC. it was fun to learn about things in DC that I was aware of but didn’t truly understand. The only downside of the novel was that the plot line was chuck a block full if separate strings which seemed like the author was trying too hard. A good beach read.
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The word esoteric conjures visuals of a more mystical nature, not the self-aggrandizing world of the affluent. As portrayed in a darkly humorous, oftentimes biting satirical tone-echoing Evelyn Waugh’s House of Dust– author Christina McDowell’s latest novel The Cave Dwellers acts as a sardonic pantomime of a novel, the illuminating light of wit casting a cohesive shadow-play on the walls of the otherwise cavernous, esoteric environment of affluent DC, where the rest of us, the readers who for the most part inhabit the world from outside the cave of the elite politician’s sphere can see how truly hollow, how malignant the racism, sexism that infects so much of the political machinations at play in this insular world. This world lies at the seat of power. And yet the totality of their actions shapes the infrastructure of wider society, through which the rest of us must suffer the repercussions of this avarice.

These deeper concerns are juxtaposed through a patchwork of different threads of stories involving different characters who live within the Washington DC elite cave, where so much of the tawdry drama that unfolds belies a far more troubling subtext that so much of this world thrives on baseness and frivolity. It is all about polished appearances structured through a cheap artifice of conservatism, manners that hides the rot of racism, sexism, and greed that lurks beneath. This is the sobering truth that McDowell masterfully brings forth from the tumult of the story’s messy political drama, all of which come together by the story’s end, leaving readers to ponder what they have just witnessed.

Because when you peer closer, you see the very real cost to human life that systemic racism, for example, has had in Washington DC, and beyond. A contemporary example of this is gentrification, one of the newer manifestations of today’s sneakier unconscious racism that is cloaked with “good intentions,” but it is almost always being put forward by wealthy white people, armed with patronizing flowery language about how gentrification will improve the area as a whole, while also entirely deflecting from the more obvious discussion of the erosion and destruction it causes for many African Americans and other racial minorities living in these neighborhoods. It invokes the racist white savior myth where white supremacy rears its ugly head donning the armor of the goodly, sainted knight, whose only motivation is some pure of heart intention to make the neighborhood safer, cleaner. Of course, the unspoken result is that it forces out the racial minorities living there, replaced instead by wealthy white people, who feel they’ve somehow scored social points for buying one of the pricey properties in the newly gentrified areas, very similar to one character towards the beginning of the story who prides herself on charity given to a black waiter, using it to protect against the sublimation of her other actions influenced by an unconscious racism. These cheap gestures are based in self-congratulatory conceit, yet displayed as actions of philanthropy.

Throughout the book, Christina McDowell will often throw in some interesting digressive footnotes, stuff that further enhances the story, versus detract from them, offering us historical context behind some of the manifestations of unconscious (though sometimes conscious) racism that occurs throughout the story. For example, one footnote establishes that the strongest reasoning for the selection of Washington, DC being the nation’s capital is because Georgetown just conveniently happened to be a slave port, providing economic incentive to select DC as the capital. This is not a historical truth that is readily shared in public school curriculums, it has been bowdlerized to safeguard some shred of nationalistic pride. Except this safeguarding sets people up for disaster, defending the status-quo with such obdurate fervor that there is no opportunity for the healing and edification possible through radical truthtelling. The uncomfortable truth that our nation’s capital was chosen for proximity for being a port to our country’s worst historical human rights atrocity is the type of incendiary stuff that stuns you as you read through this occasionally uncomfortable read that also engrosses the reader while entertaining you, beguiling you with the juicy drama of each of the story’s narrative threads.

There are times when the McDowell’s novel feels a bit stymied in the pacing when certain character’s stories don’t mesh well with the rest of the story, feeling less congruent with the larger, more engrossing commentary on the gross racism and sexism that festers throughout so much of the actions and motivations of the main cast of characters.

It’s this story’s larger truths, its fantastic ability to convey these things without feeling didactic, that really allows this novel to linger with you long after finishing the book. McDowell once before effectively told her own story of the fallout of her father’s arrest related with crimes of greed in her 2015 novel After Perfect: A Daughter’s Memoir, so she has always showcased a talent for being an unapologetic serious truthteller, willing to confront her own flaws in the name of writing things that cause us to rethink so much of the stuff we may be blind to, or have never once analyzed in our lives, stuff that might not necessarily be as innocuous as previously thought. The Cave Dwellers reminds us all by the novel’s end that those on the fringes of their privileged society, the threshold of exiting the cave, are the characters who are seen as being troublemakers, disturbers of the peace. Yet it is these people who must continue to remain vocal about the moral rot around them, who are willing to confront their own unconscious biases in the pursuit of emboldening others to do the same.
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It’s Gossip Girl meets Such A Fun Age.

I’ll be honest and say that I liked the Rich Kids Behaving Badly element of this better than the on-message part of it. The antics are fun and outrageous and DC is an unusual setting for that trope, so it’s something new.

The deeper message is of course a good and very timely one, though it’s a bit too on-the-nose in its delivery in a way that doesn’t blend with the humor and scathing social commentary that dominates the tone of the book and is by far the best part of it.

The kids are much more likable than the parents (aren’t they always?!), and I did truly like Bunny several of the others. The adults were interesting if decidedly less likable. However, with the exception of Kate (who is sort of in-between in terms of age) the adult women were tough to distinguish from one another. If that was deliberate on the part of the author, it makes a certain kind of sense.

The author’s note at the end of this one is really, really important to the soul and purpose of the book, explaining why McDowell chose to write the book she did and why she is uniquely qualified to do so.
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Having lived my entire life in the DC metro area, I was so exited to read this book.  The first six chapters had me hooked immediately, and the historical facts, geography, and cultural references are all accurate.  I was just disappointed by how much time was devoted to the lives of the children. I thought this would be contemporary fiction, but it reads much more like young adult fiction.
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