A young man enrolls in law school with the dream of forging a new future, free from the shackles of the small-town mediocrity and the lower middle-class identity that defined his youth. But when he finds that the strictures of class and economics are impossible to escape even within the confines of an elite education, he grows increasingly disillusioned: the playing field will never be level.
Our unnamed protagonist longs for intellectual camaraderie, authenticity, a different kind of life. He finds his escape in Max, a black-clad enigma with algae-green eyes who pulls him into her rag-tag anti-establishment crew who are driven by a will to live large and tear down the system. Max and her friends live in a hopelessly romantic and dilapidated town house owned by an aging professor and connoisseur of the good life who surrounds himself with students who are interested in hedonism, anarchy, and free-thinking. The community our protagonist experiences in the house is beyond anything he had ever imagined. When he is invited to move in, it is like a dream come true. But there’s a catch: he must first pass a test…
Gradually, the young man is sucked into the world of the self-proclaimed bandits whose decadent lifestyle is fueled by their willingness to act outside the law. After passing the initiation rite, he partakes in elaborate heists justified by a system of morals outside conventional society. But what begins as a young man’s dream of finding community quickly spirals into involvement in serious crime where he is more pawn than player. Soon he ends up at a point of no return: is he willing to sacrifice everything to be one of the bandits?
An Honest Life is an exhilarating novel that combines a poignant coming of age story with the electric dramaturgy of a heist thriller. Whip-smart, daring, and deeply relatable, the novel entertains while also challenging the reader to ask ourselves in what way we too are complicit in a society defined by inequality. And, what does it really mean to live an honest life?
“This story is in many ways prescient of our current moment. In a society where class divides are increasing at a never before seen pace, there is also growing resentment. It is an art, weaving in social critique that in many ways could be educational or moral without for that matter patronizing the reader. In An Honest Life, Joakim Zander delivers critique toward the system in which we are living while also portraying the allure of living outside the law without overly romanticizing or judging anything or anyone. In the same way, the framing with prologue and epilogue is genius – it gives the book an autobiographical touch that contributes an even greater sense of authenticity. […] An Honest Life is an intensely relatable story of the boredom of youth and the longing to feel alive. The hunt for magic, for kicks, and at the same time: an awakening from the naïvité of youth and black and white reasoning. About growing up, becoming your own person, staking out your course – to question the system on which society is built and at the same time lay bare the cracks in what is drawn up as utopian.”
Dagens Bok (SE)
“As a writer, Zander moves in the same territory as Stieg Larsson, or rather David Lagercrantz, who picked up the ’Millennium’-flag after Larsson’s death. Not only because Lisbet Salander is so clearly reflected in Max as a character, but because of the [novel’s] very romantic characteristic. (…) Zander expertly captures youth’s toilsome oscillation between the overestimation of self and feelings of worthlessness, identity confusion and thrill-seeking.”
“It [the novel] centers around loneliness and a longing for fellowship. About a meaning in – with – life. It is also about being taken advantage of, both by the upperclass brats the young law-student lives with, but by the new friends as well. A gangster novel, really. But with multiple dimensions, levels and depth.”
“There is a momentum that makes the novel difficult to put down. The suspense is particularly present in our protagonist’s reflections, choices and insecurity. His desperate hunt for identity and community determines his existence and it is a breathless experience to stand on the sidelines and watch him cross the line. The mileus are skillfully depicted, such as the ‘You got male’- dinner with he rich dudes ordering catering from Grand Hotel while the small-town boy is stuck doing the dishes – or, for that matter, the anarchist group’s dinners in the professor’s town house.”
“Zander problematizes different ways of thinking and ideals (…) during the latter half of the book, An Honest Life develops into a more direct crime novel, which is a genre that Zander already, based on his prior publications, masters.”
“A gripping novel about the mechanisms of violence, the frailty of our social systems, and youth’s urgent desire for meaning.”
– NYT Bestselling Author of A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
“In An Honest Life, Joakim Zander stretches the limits of what a suspense novel can be, creating something wholly unique. Through elegant literary showmanship, he combines the classic bildungsroman with a great heist thriller. Zander’s intelligence, sense of humor, political awareness and ingenious sense of style and dramaturgy makes this into a charged and delightful read, vibrating with intensity – and breathlessly suspenseful.”
– Christoffer Carlsson
“One of the best suspense novels to be published this spring.”
– Jens Lapidus, bestselling author of the Snabba Cash series