Ted Thompson

The Land of Steady Habits




Coming of age can happen at the strangest times. For Anders Hill, long ensconced in “the land of steady habits”—the affluent hamlets of Connecticut that dot the commuter rail line—it’s finally time to reap the rewards of a sensible life. Into his sixties and newly retired, his grown sons’ college tuitions paid in full, Anders finds the contentment he’s been promised is still just out of reach. So he decides he’s had enough of steady habits: he leaves his wife, buys a condo, and waits for freedom to transform him.

But as the cheery charade of Christmas approaches, Anders starts to wonder if maybe parachuting from his life was not the most prudent choice. Stripped of the comforts of his previous identity, he turns up at a holiday party full of his ex-wife’s friends, and sets in motion a series of events by turns comic and catastrophic. Before the year has turned, he has to face the startling possibility that the very world he rejected may in fact be the only one he needs.

Charting the arc of a forty-year marriage this finely observed novel about a man deep in conflict with his community and his past brings into sharp relief the powers of memory, miscommunication, routine, and disappointment to shape and define a family’s mythology. The Land of Steady Habits introduces Ted Thompson as an auspicious talent with striking compassion for his characters and new insight into the American tradition of the suburban narrative.


Filled with heartache and humor, this assured, compassionate first novel channels the suburban angst of Updike and Cheever, updating the narrative of midlife dissatisfaction with a scathing dissection of America’s imploding economy…With pitch-perfect prose and endearingly melancholy characters, Thompson offers up a heartbreaking vision of an ailing family and country.”
—Booklist (Starred Review)

Caution: this debut about a retired Connecticut executive dealing with his divorce is not for everyone. It’s too funny, too angry, too slyly subversive, and it might just make you think differently about your own marriage, your friends’ lives, the guy sitting next to you on the train…No wonder Thompson is being touted as this generation’s Updike and The Land of Steady Habits—a perfect description of the upper-middle class bubble life illustrated here—as his Rabbit, Run.
—Sara Nelson, Amazon.com (Featured Debut Pick, Amazon Best Book of the Month)

It’s not a stretch to say that this is the first great novel about post-crash American disillusionment, the flip side of The Wolf of Wall Street. Inside the ruined heart and soul of Anders Hill is a warning: even the life you think falls short of your dreams must not be taken for granted.
David Daley, Salon/NY1

A story that is at once honest, raw, heartbreaking, and comical…The Land of Steady Habits is about the complexity of family ties, the consequences of prosperity, the courage to rebel, and the possibilities of a second coming of age.”
Morgan Ribera, Bustle

Ted Thompson’s elegiac yet bighearted take on adult disillusionment earns its comparisons to suburban bards such as Updike and Cheever.”
Wall Street Journal Magazine

Like what Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road did for the stifled Silent Generation, Thompson’s splintered Hill clan gives voice to a desperate, conflicted, and dwindling affluent class.”
Interview magazine

Thompson’s sharp-eyed debut is that kind of searing portrait of American wealth unraveling that is dazzling and immeasurably sad.
Kirkus Reviews

Stunning…a masterful debut.”
—Kevin Conley, Town & Country

Advance Praise:

“In his beautiful and generously imagined debut, Ted Thompson will rightly draw comparisons to other chroniclers of suburban life—Updike, Cheever—but I think we need to dig deeper into the tradition—to John O’Hara—because The Land of Steady Habits is our Appointment in Samarra and Anders Hill is our Julian English. Whether it’s a society built on coal or one collapsing under the weight of credit default swaps, both novels explore what ails America by looking into the wrecked hearts of those who seem to have everything and now must reckon the high cost of the good life. Over the course of a single holiday season, Thompson takes Anders on a tragicomic ride, through exile and redemption, until a new kind of hero emerges, human and fallible, a man who becomes more for having accepted less and finds greatness because he chooses decency. Fearless and tremendously moving, The Land of Steady Habits tells a story we need to hear and announces the arrival of a voice we should all welcome.”
—Charles D’Ambrosio

“With impeccable prose, dry wit, and uncommon wisdom, Ted Thompson brings to life one family’s painful disappointments and powerful resilience. The Land of Steady Habits combines Austen’s shrewd mastery of domestic economics with Updike’s compassion for the melancholy commuter to make something elegant, fresh, and brilliant.”  
—Maggie Shipstead

“A book that is funny, shrewd, and heartbreaking by turns, The Land of Steady Habits concerns the lost-and-found souls of Connecticut and Manhattan, and at every point this novel offers both pleasure and insight into its cast of characters. You don’t expect a first novel to be as inward and worldly as this one is, and at the same time to be so readable. Ted Thompson’s dialogue is so good, so unerring, that he must have perfect pitch. A wonderful debut.”
—Charles Baxter

“It would probably never occur to New England white people that they are an ethnicity, but this sharp and funny saga of a Connecticut family unraveling is a detailed natural history of upper crust suburbanites and how they live (and drink).  The reader learns not to take good fortune and loved ones for granted—and also that a liquor store owner in Westport will never starve.”
—Sarah Vowell

“Ted Thompson will be weighed against some famous Johns—Updike and Cheever—for the usual wrong reasons. (Suburbs, separation.) But the comparison is apt in all the ways that matter: because the prose is sumptuous, the characterizations economically brilliant, the themes still important and universal.  Because this is a great book. And readers who sample its riches will be greedy to scoop up the entire treasure of it. And so, ladies and gentlemen, we may have found our generation’s Rabbit, Run.”
—Darin Strauss