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People Who Knock at the Door Paperback – 11 Sep 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (11 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393322432
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393322439
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.8 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 677,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Book Description

People Who Knock on the Door, is a tale about blind faith and the slippery notion of justice that lies beneath the peculiarly American veneer of righteousness. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) was the author of more than twenty novels, including Strangers on a Train, The Price of Salt and The Talented Mr. Ripley, as well as numerous short stories.

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Format: Paperback
Richard Alderman becomes a born-again Christian and when his teenage son gets a girl pregnant he tries to move heaven and earth to stop an abortion taking place. The family home changes character, especially when his other son is converted too. The agnostic son is thrown out of home because of his loose moral standards. The father 'helps' people connected with the church until one of his female clients becomes pregnant and claims he is the father. The born-again son kills his father on religious grounds (Leviticus - stoning adulterers?).

The Sunday Times calls this 'venomously accurate' as a description of the US moral, majority's hypocrisy. It was a 'good read' though a more accurate novel about the moral majority might tackle the-more subtle, insidious effects of this movement as it affects attitudes, politics and minority groups rather than just concentrating on one family. It shows, however, the danger such religion can have on a small scale. It would be more horrifying if it were more wide-ranging.
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Format: Paperback
When Arthur's brother becomes seriously ill, his parents pray around his hospital bed for his recovery. His Father is convinced that God heard his prayers and so becomes a Born Again Christian. As time goes by, Arthur becomes more distant from his Father, whilst his brother, being younger, is more easily influenced. Arthur's Mother is caught between all members of her family and tries to keep the peace.
This novel is enhanced by being slower paced, as it gives time for the characters and their relationships to really develop beautifully. Arthur is so calm and level-headed as life and the people he cares for seem to cause him constant problems, but he also has some solid people to depend on, his Grandmother and next door neighbor who are always on his side and give him constant support. The characters and their relationships are what make this book, but it also has a solid story and a terrific ending.
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By Densie on 11 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As ever, a good read from a jolly good writer. Her books are always a delight to read & well plotted. It was abit dated as attitudes & fears change over the years but envoy able nonetheless.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 16 reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Today, on "Surburbian Hell with Highsmith" 14 Nov. 2002
By Brent Holcomb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Patricia Highsmith pulls a one-two punch on readers with her disturbing "People Who Knock on the Door." The first punch aims at modern Christianity. The second aims at every reader who thought the first punch was aimed at modern Christianity.
The story is centered around Arthur, a recent high-school graduate, and the problems he has concerning his family. His father has recently become a Christian - a Bible-thumping, "Amen"-shouting believer. Because his children have not been raised in a Christian home, the father's conversion tears the family apart, and traditional Highsmith violence ensues.
Is Highsmith praising or satirizing modern Christianity? Her opinion is seemingly obvious, because the book is almost completely one-sided...or is it? It, in fact, is not one-sided at all. Patricia Highsmith brilliantly pokes fun at herself - and at everyone ready to criticize her - by ultimately making the novel a farce. A very dark farce, mind you, but a farce nonetheless. The "villain" character is extremely one-sided, as is the protagonist. And because of how the book ends, the reader tends to view Highsmith as one-sided, also.
In the end, neither side wins: If you're the Christian, Highsmith has pulled the wool over your eyes by getting you to read the book in the first place - you should be reading the Bible, you hypocrite. If you "agree" with her supposed views toward Western Religion, she pulled the wool over your eyes, too - you have become the cynical Arthur...it's easy to point fingers when you're the protagonist, huh?
I have come to expect sharp thrillers from Patricia Highsmith. "People Who Knock on the Door" is more than a thriller...it is a razor-sharp dark comedy that succeeds on every level.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Third-person Highsmith 23 Mar. 2003
By "vortex87" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an interesting work, if you're familiar with other Patricia Highsmith novels - and by "interesting," it is that it's not technically a crime novel (i.e., it's not the major theme of the novel), it's another display of the range of her capabilities, rather; also, that when the crime is committed, it's not from the person from whom we're watching the events through - it's sort of a third-person crime, in this way. And not for the usual reason. (I'll leave it there so that, even though another reviewer has told you who the killer is, the novel hasn't been completely blown for you.)

"People Who Knock on the Door" is still a very readable novel, since the differences don't really detract from the reading - it has the same storytelling style of other Highsmith novels, and is not a labor to read for it.

If you're looking for a DEEP WATER/THIS SWEET SICKNESS-esque suburban psychopath tale, you may find it slow and ultimately disappointing. (It is, however, rather like EDITH'S DIARY.)

But if you aren't, read on!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Distinctly odd 23 April 2007
By Jamie Mays - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I've always placed Highsmith as a writer of the 50s and 60s. This book was published in 1983, and it's set in a peculiar version of the early 1980s in which characters are named Arthur and Cora and Mildred. It's also a peculiar place where high school students are offered beers and hot toddies by their parents and a teenager works at a neighborhood shoe repair shop. A place where an ex-boyfriend refers to his ex-girlfriend's new flame as "Mr. Hargiss." Highsmith was in her sixties at the time, so perhaps she felt a contemporary setting would update her unique brand of unease, but she doesn't quite make it. For example, she confuses "angel dust" with cocaine. Unfortunately, the bizarro-world details distract from the story, about religious fundamentalism and small-town gossip. It's still a good read, just a distinctly odd one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I'm Confused. . . . 24 July 2007
By ROGER L. FOREMAN - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Patricia Highsmith wrote this book, right. . . ? It is a lackluster effort from someone as talented as she. This book seems like more of a rant on Christianity and organized religion, which would be fine if something else interesting were going on. What confused me most initially was the setting, in terms of time. Was this family "Leave it to Beaver" or "Six Feet Under". . . ? Everyone seemed so stereotypically '50s, without any of the true dysfunction that would seem to have been exhibited by a family in the '80s, particularly the main character. Maybe I just don't remember the '80s well enough. Despite the differences in opinions and viewpoints of various family members, little tension--implied or otherwise--develops.
Am I having sex with my girlfriend? Sure, but it's all secret, implied, and hush-hush--sounds more '50s-ish than '80s-ish.
Does she get pregnant? Sure, but I don't care all that much, and I'm really not all that panicked about it.
Are her parents ready to kill me? No, they don't seem to care much either--more '80s than '50s.
Do my parents care all that much? Not really, since they're not even sure I have a girlfriend. Despite their initial reaction--or lack thereof--I get kicked out of my house. Rather quietly. I don't resist, either. I don't even yell back when my dad tells me. In fact, I seem to care very little. . . .
Do I hate my brother? I guess, but not all that much.
Et cetera.

The result is that the reader doesn't care that much, either. I love Highsmith's sublety and implied nature of the conflict and violence that lies within. Her pacing is immaculate. I have never been bored. Until now. She just doesn't build the tension in the early pages enough to carry through subsequent chapters. The result is that I finished simply out of inherent loyalty to Highsmith--not concern or interest in the plot or characters.

I am not used to being "bored" by Highsmith, and I have truly enjoyed and anticipated each of her novels that I've read. If you're new to the club, you might want to start elsewhere. If you're fiercely loyal, you still might want to go somewhere else. If you run out of other titles, give it a run. At least it's relatively short. . . .
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Door to Door 28 Sept. 2006
By RCM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"People Who Knock on the Door" may seem like a departure from the typical Patricia Highsmith fare. It is a story about the changes that occur in one family throughout the course of one year, a simple enough plot, but one filled with the sense of unease that proliferates Highsmith's writing. The novel is almost narrowly and simplistically focused at the beginning, but branches off as the story progresses, leaving readers unsure as to where to align themselves.

The novel opens rather vaguely, as Highsmith isn't one to state the obvious directly. The reader meets seventeen-year-old Arthur Alderman at the end of his senior year, ready to attend Columbia in the fall. When his fifteen-year-old brother Robbie becomes seriously ill, their father becomes a born-again Christian, suddenly devout to the Lord and expecting the same from his family. Arthur cannot align himself with his father's beliefs; he views his father as a hypocrite, a man who has preached the value of money all his life suddenly changing his beliefs and forcing his family to feel the same way. Arthur's mom goes along with this new life, in order to keep the peace, while his brother Robbie believes hook, line and sinker to the point of obsession.

When Arthur will not change his ways to suit his father, his father refuses to pay for college and kicks Arthur out of the house. Arthur's father cannot seem to see the damage he is creating in his own family, and when disaster strikes close to home and the tables are turned, it may be too late to reverse the changes he has wrought.

Highsmith spends a lot of the narrative following Arthur through his first year of college; it is a well-drawn portrait, but one that lacks the vividness of her best creations. Arthur rarely comes to life off the page, and that applies to the other characters as well. The story is somewhat predictable, the reader can easily guess most of what will unfold, but Highsmith is talented enough to maintain the suspense, subtly crafting cracks in Arthur's story. I found myself disliking the main character in the end; despite tragedy, he gets virtually everything he wants, but is he on the right side of the issues Highsmith writes about? And that is where the genius of "People Who Knock on the Door" lies - in the twists that take the reader from seeing everything from Arthur's perspective to questioning his ability to relate the story at hand.
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