PERSONAL: Married Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon. com), 1993; children: two sons. Education: Attended Princeton University.
ADDRESSES: Home—Seattle, WA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Fourth Estate, 10 E. 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
The Testing of Luther Albright (novel), Fourth Estate (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: MacKenzie Bezos made her literary debut in 2005 with the novel, The Testing of Luther Albright. The novel features Luther, a civil engineer who, throughout the course of the book, is tested by his family, the forces of nature, and himself. At the book's opening, Luther is looking back on the year 1983, which is significant because, as the protagonist states, it was "the year I lost my wife and son." The figurative loss begins to manifest itself when readers meet Luther's family. His wife of twenty-two years, Liz, is beautiful, kind, and estranged from her husband, a man who avoids owning his emotions in a self-defeating attempt to prevent the familial structure from falling apart. While Liz seems to sadly accept Luther's aloof nature, his fifteen-year-old son, Elliot, unsuccessfully attempts to chisel away at his father's demeanor. Luther's only true passion is building tangible structures, from the major dams he constructs in California to the house he has built for his family.
Out of frustration with his father, Elliot begins to perform outrageous acts such as shaving his head, bringing a gun to a picnic, doing rooftop stunts, and pummeling Luther with probing questions. In addition, both Luther's house and a major dam he constructed begin to show structural flaws. The book's conclusion is "quietly heartbreaking and perhaps a bit anticlimactic—just as real life often is," wrote reviewer Rebecca K. Stropoli on BookPage.com.
While some reviewers praised Bezos' debut, others found that Luther Albright's character is authentic enough to alienate readers in the same way that the character alienates his family. "Bezos is a meticulous writer," voiced Wingate Packard in the Seattle Times Online, "but her novel suffers from a suffocating focus on a narrator whose precise calibrations of insult and loss are, whether reliable or not, insufficiently compelling." Writing in the New York Times, Kate Bolick noted that Bezos's "articulation of one middle-aged man's interior life is so convincing that at times the book reads like an autobiography of a coward," and ultimately described The Testing of Luther Albright as "a quietly absorbing first novel." Expressing a similar sentiment, a Publishers Weekly reviewer called the novel an "impressive, quietly powerful debut." In other praise for The Testing of Luther Albright, reviewer Debra Spark commented in the San Francisco Chronicle that "the book succeeds in its depiction of the damage a withholding person can do. It offers, too, insightful glimpses of office life; subtle scenes of unarticulated conflict; intriguing moments of familial deception; astute psychological observations; [and] precise, elegant writing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bezos, MacKenzie, The Testing of Luther Albright, Fourth Estate (New York, NY), 2005.
Entertainment Weekly, August 5, 2005, Jennifer Reese," 'Testing' Ground," review of The Testing of Luther Albright, p. 68.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2005, review of The Testing of Luther Albright, p. 489.
Library Journal, June 15, 2005, Susanne Wells, review of The Testing of Luther Albright, p. 56.
New York Times, August 7, 2005, Kate Bolick, "Home Improvement?," review of The Testing of Luther Albright.
Publishers Weekly, May 30, 2005, review of The Testing of Luther Albright, p. 33.
San Francisco Chronicle, August 7, 2005, Debra Spark, "A Family Man Just Can't Seem to Connect," review of The Testing of Luther Albright.
BookPage, http://www.bookpage.com/ (November 17, 2005), Rebecca K. Stropoli, "Cracks in the Family Façade."
Independent Online, http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/ (July 24, 2005), Lucy Rouse, review of The Testing of Luther Albright.
San Diego Union Tribune Online, http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/ (August 7, 2005), Roxana Popescu, "The Unraveling of a Careful Man," review of The Testing of Luther Albright.
Seattle Times Online, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ (August 12, 2005), Wingate Packard, "The Testing of Luther Albright: An Unreliable, Uncompelling Narrator."
Stranger Online (Seattle, WA), http://www.thestranger.com/ (August 25, 2005), Christopher Frizzelle, "Nightstand: Mrs. Bezos," review of The Testing of Luther Albright.