Mrs. Fosters goals aside and there is some suggestion her philanthropy is aimed at flouting her dead husbands wishes good and generous impulses are in short supply in The Humanity Project. After all, as one cynical character says, [H]uman nature is not the best investment the market has to offer.
Sean grows addicted to painkillers. Conner abandons his friends, who are enjoying their final summer before college, to take a job as Mrs. Fosters handyman and gives up on his own dreams. Linnea roams San Francisco as she pleases, paralyzing her inept father with fear. Christie discovers her altruistic impulses are driving her nuts: She had wanted to engage with the world. And now the world was engaging right back.
And yet. Thats Thompsons gift, that yet. There is evidence after all of hope. Conner is kind to Linnea when she befriends him. Sean vows he will never abandon his dog just because times are rough. Linnea asks Christie for help when she needs it. A current of empathy flows through even the most desperate, Thompson writes, and maybe thats the part worth preserving.
Conners conflicted feelings about Mrs. Foster sum up Thompsons thesis best: His dealings with her were in large part motivated by self-interest and in some smaller part by dread, guilt, obligation, and wanting to do the right thing. all the people she brought around who kept trying to figure out the definition of humanity? That was it right there. Conflicted, complex and compassionate when you least expect it: Thats us in a nutshell and in Thompsons ultimately profound novel.
Connie Ogle is the Miami Heralds book editor.