Cover Image: The Cave Dwellers

The Cave Dwellers

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THE CAVE DWELLERS ☆☆☆ - Pub date: 5/25⁣/21
Thank you to Gallery/Scout Press + @netgalley for my e-ARC. ✨ ⁣
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This book explores Washington DC’s elite and what they do behind closed doors. When a high society family is held hostage and murdered, everything begins to unravel. ⁣
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I was sure this one would be right up my alley. I’m a political junkie, after all. Unfortunately, it fell short for me. The beginning was very strong and gave me Scandal vibes. Once the focus turned more to the teenagers, though, I lost interest. I just felt like it was missing something... You know what I mean? It had *a lot* of characters and then no closure. ⁣
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A positive: the author’s note was really interesting and bumped up my rating a bit. ⁣
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Not normally a book I would pick, I was curious and I am glad I picked up this book. I loved how the author included information about places and objects mentioned in the story. As someone who did not grow up in affluent Washington DC, I found this very helpful and also fascinating. I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters and the ending took me completely by surprise!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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The story begins with the murder of the family in the most prestigious neighborhood of DC. The Banks family is of old money and aristocratic bloodline. They are listed in the exclusive Green Book, a who’s who in Washington DC. The families listed there only socialize within their own circle and are known as the Cave Dwellers. They and their families are privileged and powerful living life free of any consequences. 
Privilege, politics, power, murder, sex scandal, racism, suicide, ambition and social climbing. This a look inside the protected, elite society that has the power to change the fabric of our country.  Will the next generation continue the past’s legacy or will they question and change what has always been the same?
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The Cave Dwellers is one of the most extraordinary books I’ve read in quite some time. Set in Washington, DC, it’s a fictional insight into the dark side of the lives of the rich and powerful; the movers and shakers, elected or not, in DC. Having spent 25 years of my adult life in DC as a career civil servant, I was delighted to recognize where people were. In addition, the author has done extensive research about DC history which is graciously shared and cited. 

The story begins with a tragic fire, probably arson, in which an entire family of the DC elite  are killed. (The family, as it turns out, with another, are implicated in toxic waste dumping in multiple states that has killed an untold number of people, most of them poor Black people, who, it is revealed later on, have been paid off by the company’s owners and required to sign non-disclosure agreements..)

There is too much going on in this book to discuss the story except in the broadest terms, lest I reveal spoilers. There are multiple layers and players, however, that can be teased out without going into much story details. 

First, we encounter the blatant social climbing wives, whose husbands, while important, dwell quietly in the background, in the world of deals and money, except for one, who is a US Senator (if you believe what you read in newspapers about elected officials abusing their power to keep women subservient you will get the idea). These women spend their time pretending to like each other while at the same time competing with and trying to dig up dirt on the others. Although they wear fashionable clothes, carry very expensive bags (brand always provided, - so costly I would not even venture into the department where they are sold), and are fond of Hermès scarves and extravagant, ostentatious jewelry, if you imagine the Hermès scarves tied around their heads like Grandma’s babushka, you will understand that they are gossiping biddies. 

Then there are the children of these entitled families. They all go to a private school on the grounds of the National Cathedral (an homage to the schools actually there - St. Alban’s and The Cathedral School), live to get wasted and post scandalous videos, and are so tightly locked into the bubble of White privilege that they know nothing about people “other” than them. One who stands out as wanting to learn about Black lives and why they matter and is desperate to escape the high fences of their own society is Bunny. She visits the young Black man arrested for the fire that killed her friend and her eyes are opened.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it is horrifying. The writing and character development, even though many of the characters and situations are purposely caricatures, is terrific, and the dark river that runs through the book reaches a sad and unfortunate climax. 

I would love to read more by this author. I received this book from the publisher and NetGalley.
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Thank you Netgalley for this ARC. What first attracted me to this book was the cover, well done! This book is about Washington D. C. high society. It's about generations of people who have bloodlines that boast of old money and prestige. These people live and socialize within in their own tight-knit bubble, one that was originally created by Edith Roosevelt's secretary's own creation of "The Green Book."  But a tight-knit bubble will  inevitably burst. When one of their own is murdered, they realize the world is not what they have believed it to be. So what now? What a great book. I recommend this book.
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After a wealthy DC family is held hostage and murdered, their friends are left reeling. 

I’m a bit conflicted with this book. It had some really good gossipy moments. I loved the teens and how some of them became aware of their privilege, but didn’t understand quite what to do with it. My favorite part was this takes place in my area, Washington DC. This book takes us to a DC that most of us won’t see. I liked the historical information on DC. The murder that happens in the book reminder me of the Savopoulos family Murders, which shocked the heck out of me. If you like juicy gossip and the inside lives of the wealthy elite, this is one for you. 

“Survival in this town requires playing chess, and playing it well. Every more calculated. Never being vulnerable or someone will inevitably prey upon your weakness and turn it into shame. One wrong move could have you ostracized from all social events, removing any chance for leverage and power moves.”

The Cave Dwellers comes out 5/25.
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This was alright. This was a compulsively readable novel that I finished in two days- but I'm not sure I liked it. The Cave Dwellers follows the exploits and betrayals of uber wealthy, powerful families in Washington DC who are reeling after the brutal murder of a family much like theirs. It tells a parallel storyline of power couples and their privileged teenage children, who are all connected in some way. McDowell was inspired by her actual lived experience growing up as a member of the DC elite, which made the story a bit more interesting in hindsight.

Besides Bunny and Cate, I couldn't tell you about any other characters because they were all interchangeable and completely the same. (Maybe that was the point?) It was also unclear whether this story aimed to be satire, a didactic critique of class and privilege, or fever dream of wild parties and outrageous disregard for others. Despite all of this, I couldn't stop reading. The comp to Bonfire of the Vanities meets The Nest is very apt.
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I was so intrigued by the premise of this book but unfortunately it did not deliver for me. I just felt like there were way too many characters, I couldn't keep track of them at all. Also I didn't like any of the characters. Which, most of these people are not people I would like in real life so I guess I shouldn't have expected to like them in book form. I do see the goal of the book, to explore the wealth/privilege, and race issues, especially in this sect of American society. The best part for me, was placing myself in the different places around DC as I am from Maryland and am fairly familiar with the area.
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The three P's: Privilege, Politics, and Predators. This book had potential, but in my opinion, it fell short. It was a fast read of an interesting plot with characters that were not fully developed.

The author's note at the end was enlightening and I would have appreciated the book more if the note was placed in the preface.

Not my favorite book of 2021.
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While I enjoyed reading this book, it fell short for me in a few ways. There were so many characters, so many storylines and so many lessons being taught that none of them had the impact they should have. It certainly felt at times that I was getting beaten over the head with the white privilege messaging – and while I do feel that reading the author’s note at the end helped make some sense of that for me, it was too little too late. I was also disappointed that the initial main murder storyline got lost as everything else was woven in with no real resolution at the end. At times it was a fascinating and very readable look into the DC political lifestyle (that it does seem the author has experience with), but I just wished it had gone a little deeper into fewer subjects and characters vs. skimming the surface on so many.
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The premise for this sounded so good and had a lot of potential. However, there were too many characters and spotlighted D.C. politics and the people involved. The execution was bad and predictable and again too many people to keep track of. Not for me and cannot recommend, which is disappointing. 

Thanks to Netgalley, Christina McDowell and Gallery Books Scout Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Available: 5/25/21
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The description of this book hooked me immediately.  I read it in 2 days.  I absolutely wanted to love it, and reading the author's note at the end, I got a better understanding of where it was coming from.  While I think that there were the best of intentions in writing this book, I think it fell short in a number of ways.  I don't think it quite understands what it wants to be.  Does it want to be campy?  Does it want to be satire?  Does it want to cultural dialogue?  Does it want to be serious?  Does it want to be a guilty pleasure?  It hopped around so much, and touched on SO MANY cultural and social issues, that it never got to really take a strong stance on any.  Some of the characters were very compelling but didn't really pay off at the end, or became compelling without enough meat.  I think what this books suffers from is spreading itself too thing.  There is a lot of great stuff to work with, but it all seems a little half-baked.  I would have rather this been a series that told a couple stories completely in each installment.  I'm left wanting a lot more about everyone and everything, and ultimately it never comes close to answering the real question about what happened to the Banks family.
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Only by reading the author's notes at the end of the book, did I get a glimpse into what she was trying to convey in this novel.  I think that she missed the mark by a mile.  I found the story to be  nauseating picture of D.C. society and politics, but I do not think that the author really honed in on the story that she tried to tell.  Although I have not read her memoir about the same time period, I feel that she just repeated her story with new names.  I cannot recommend this book.
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The Cave Dwellers was dark, twisty, and compulsively readable. This is a novel about the elitest of the elite in DC, their kids, and the aftermath of the murder of a prominent powerful family. DC newcomers try to gain entrance to an elite country club. The children attend an elite prep school. There are senators and sex scandals, wealth and environmental disaster. My favorite character was Bunny, an 18 year old daughter of an elite family. Bunny questions everything - her family history and legacy, racism and white supremacy, while trying to figure out how, or even IF, she can escape her history and make it better. Christina McDowell has created a very realistic community of multigenerational characters, all interwoven beautifully. I’m leaving this story with more questions than answers in the best way possible. A big thank you to Gallery Books for the ARC!
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Thank you Netgalley for this ARC of The Cave Dwellers by Christina McDowell.

In the neighborhood of America's most elite, most political, and wealthy, is a crime that is too heinous to fathom, leaving an entire family dead.  But who would want to hurt such a quiet family, in such a seemingly safe neighborhood.  But every strong community has it's secrets, and seedy underbelly...

Wow, this shone just a blaringly hot light on so many hot issues we are facing in our country.  Class, race, politics, sexual assault, romance, suicide (trigger warning), family dynamics.  And even with it's extremely heavy content, it's still entertaining as heck, and I honestly learned a lot.  This would be a phenomenal book club read.
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This was a really interesting book, especially in view of what all is happening in government at this time.  I don't know if all the stuff in the story really does happen or if this is just the tip of the iceberg and we "common folks" don't really have any idea of how these folks really live.  I'll bet it's the latter.  I did find it a little confusing at places keeping the cast of characters straight but then I discovered that there was a Character Family Tree in the beginning of the book and found that to be very helpful while reading the rest of the story.  I would recommend this book but would make sure I pointed out the family tree when I gave the recommendation.
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I was intrigued by this book. I felt like the writing was well done. However, there were way too many characters to keep up with and too many side storylines that in the end didn't really matter. Several could have been left out. I also felt like it left the reader hanging - since the murders weren't truly resolved. While white privilege is something we are all used to hearing and coming to terms with - this book just hit you upside the head with it to an extreme. While I do read to learn I also read to enjoy and being beaten over the head with political issues isn't totally what I consider enjoyment when reading fiction. Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me an early reading of this novel!
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This was a fascinating look at privilege and power in DC. I was quickly hooked and couldn't stop turning the pages. There were quite a few storylines going, which could get a bit confusing at times, and meant that some of them didn't go as deep as I would have liked. However, all of the storylines were fascinating and interconnected and helped to paint the big picture of DC society. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it left me with interesting questions on the choices people make and how family obligations/pressures shape those choices.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and author for an ARC of this book.
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Just finished reading The Cave Dwellers, and I have a love/don't love relationship with it. Having lived in Washington, DC for a couple of decades, the characters and scenarios generally rang true to me. The writing was good, but the plot was predictable. That said, the characters were engaging enough to hold my interest--for the most part--even though the trajectory of the plot was not terribly original. My chief objection was feeling like I was being clobbered over the head with woke political messaging. Even though I have no disagreement at all with the points being made, I would rather have had that material better integrated into the story. Three stars because the writing was good and the characters were mostly believable, even though the plot was somewhat tired. I would read another book by this author.
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"A compulsively readable novel in the vein of The Bonfire of the Vanities - by way of The Nest - about what Washington, DC’s high society members do away from the Capitol building and behind the closed doors of their stately homes.

They are the families considered worthy of a listing in the exclusive Green Book - a discriminative diary created by the niece of Edith Roosevelt’s social secretary. Their aristocratic bloodlines are woven into the very fabric of Washington - generation after generation. Their old money and manner lurk through the cobblestone streets of Georgetown, Kalorama, and Capitol Hill. They only socialize within their inner circle, turning a blind eye to those who come and go on the political merry-go-round. These parents and their children live in gilded existences of power and privilege.

But what they have failed to understand is that the world is changing. And when the family of one of their own is held hostage and brutally murdered, everything about their legacy is called into question.

They’re called The Cave Dwellers."

After the following few years and months in particular I am now kind of Washington, DC obsessed... thankfully there's The Cave Dwellers...
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