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Publisher's Summary

From National Book Award Finalist Joshua Ferris comes a “murderously funny” novel about a modern American family and one man’s attempt to come to understand the many lives of his father. (Janet Maslin, New York Times)

Someone is telling the story of the life of Charlie Barnes, and it doesn't appear to be going well. Too often divorced, discontent with life's compromises, and in a house he hates, this lifelong schemer and eternal romantic would like out of his present circumstances and into the American dream. But when the twin calamities of the Great Recession and a cancer scare come along to compound his troubles, his dreams dwindle further, and an infinite past full of forking paths quickly tapers to a black dot.

Then, against all odds, something goes right for a change: Charlie is granted a second act. With help from his storyteller son, he surveys the facts of his life and finds his true calling where he least expects it — in a sacrifice that redounds with selflessness and love — at last becoming the man his son always knew he could be.

The new book by the acclaimed author Joshua Ferris, narrated by the beloved actor Nick Offerman, is a profound and tender portrait of a man whose desperate need to be loved is his downfall, and a brutally funny account of how that love is ultimately earned.

©2021 Joshua Ferris (P)2021 Little, Brown & Company

Critic Reviews

"A deeply funny, very moving book about that most pivotal and permanent of destinations: death. Ferris's hijinks are serious; his play is profound. There is magic in these pages." (Ayad Akhtar, author of Homeland Elegies)

“With meticulous, wry prose and a dash of self-effacing metafiction, Joshua Ferris delves deeply into the simultaneously extraordinary and ordinary life of Charlie Barnes, a man with as much failure in him as found in our bankrupted country. This novel, about dentures and toupees and all the ways we disguise ourselves from our intimates, is at its large heart a moving portrait of a father and son to rival the best of Roth.” (Teddy Wayne, author of Apartment)

"Joshua Ferris is one of our best writers, and A Calling for Charlie Barnes is wonderful: fast and deep, urgent and brilliant. Ingeniously written, it had me up reading late into the night. A hilarious, intimate, and scathing takedown of so many American vanities." (Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others)

What listeners say about A Calling for Charlie Barnes

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the best book I've read this year

Sometimes you find a gem. A story with so many layers, and so much heart, you have to really put some thought into it before you can share your take. My previous review still holds my truth, however I have more to say. I found myself as absorbed by Jake's journey as I did Charlie’s,  especially as the events played out and truths were elaborated.  I found myself heartbroken when someone was excluded due to reasons beyond their control. I found myself inspired at attempts of peace making, and tolerance,  even when not deserved. I found the rock solid bonds between certain individuals beautiful and honest. A bond many share with No one, yet this man was hand selected to share in this Father’s heart and life, regardless of the consequences.  The amount of uphill battles defy emotional gravity to the point that, at times I wanted to scream profanities. The lack of common decency, the lack of compassion and loyalty,  the complete disregard for another precious human being’s heart and place of belonging wrecked me. Maybe it was because I could relate to the narrator’s tale of an unimaginably tragic yet meaningful youth. Maybe the familiarity to strive to belong, be accepted, share love were just a little too familiar. I’m not sure, but I found the grace with which these incidents were handled remarkable and heartwarming. I’m so glad that the father's love was demonstrated with not only a power that could withstand the test of time, it withstood death and will live on forever in the energy it created. God bless this family. I know much is fiction, unfortunately I fear the parts that aren’t are the parts no child, youth or human being should ever have to endure. This book is a must read for any and all human beings trying to get through the journey of life as unscathed as possible. we all try to experience a place of contentment and belonging. Finding beauty and fulfillment sometimes requires rose-colored glasses..

8 people found this helpful

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A Thinking Person’s book

Beneath the humor and the writing of the author lies a message for thought that goes on long after you finish reading this creative novel of A calling for Charlie Barnes. It’s about truth and reality, my own, that of my families as a child and as an adult, and of many friends we have known over our lifetimes. It’s a ot love and rejection and life and death issues handled with skill and humor which puts everything into perspective. Read it! It’s one of the best audible books I have listened to. Carolyn Jacobson

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Very Good Book, Excellent Reading

This was a good book, well worth listening to. The transitions in time frames was a little confusing for me, but that seems to be the style nowadays. Nick Offerman did an excellent job of reading this novel.

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Smart, funny and wise

With so many new books coming out at the end of the year, A Calling for Charlie Barnes seems to have gotten a short shrift. Ferris writes about, among other things, families and their dysfunction, aging, the trajectory of a life, and the accuracy of memory. All of this is done with humor, compassion and wisdom.

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Incredible book & Incredible performance by Offerm

I rarely listen to a book a second time but started this one again immediately after finishing it. I just finished my second listening and was no less captivated by the story and Offerman's performance. What a book. It's laugh-out-loud funny, yet serious and touching all at once. The characters are so human, the love between Jake and his father so profound, Charlie such a rich set of contradictions. This book captures what it's like to be alive -- the things we mull on without ever bringing to consciousness, our own ridiculousnesses, the complexity of relationships.

And, of course, "what is the truth?" I won't even go there....but wish I knew someone else who had read this book so that we could chew on that for hours.

I read some really good books in 2021, but enjoyed this one more than any other. It's an absolute gem and Nick Offerman's reading -- the voices, the comic timing -- made the book come alive in a way that I've rarely experienced.

Hope your experience with the book is as joyful, thought-provoking, and touching as mine was.

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One of the best of 2021

One of my favorite types of novels—someone’s story leading to their internal epiphany but this book does it at a whole new level. It is on my mind days after finishing it, and have recommended to my fellow “thinking” readers. It is funny, endearing and comforting. I got the title from the NPR Best Books of 2021 and agree with that honor completely.

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Not worth the trouble

Totally unpleasant character and the story is messy and uninteresting. I tried but could not even finish.

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Perfect blend of book and narrator

Great book. Funny and heartfelt, and Nick Offerman just nails it. One of the best I’ve listened to in a long time.