This is definitely one of the oddest books I've read in a long time. Wilson uses a storytelling device not unlike that employed by Patricia Highsmith in The Talented Mr. Ripley, wherein one character recounts to another a rather long and complicated story. The reader shares with the receiving half of the conversational pair an enticing dose of wonder, disbelief, and surprise at what is being disclosed over complimentary food and drink in a first-class lounge during a flight delay. I listened to this one, to be honest, and it got me through several runs which might have otherwise been pretty brutal! Mouth to Mouth was on Barack Obama's summer reading list. I admit, I fell for his recommendation. Glad I did!
“I loved this suspenseful novel, these mysterious characters. Antoine Wilson has created a situation worthy of Hitchcock, or of Highsmith. Mouth to Mouth asks if we can ever know the truth about those we love, or indeed ourselves.”
— Adam Possehl, Powell's Books, Portland, OR
ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2022 * An NPR and TimeBest Book of the Year * Longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize (Canada) * Finalist for CALIBA’s 2022 Golden Poppy Awards
A successful art dealer confesses the story of his meteoric rise in this “powerful, intoxicating, and shocking” (The New York Times) novel that’s a “slow burn à la Patricia Highsmith” (Oprah Daily). “You’ll struggle not to rip through in one sitting” (Vogue).
In a first-class lounge at JFK airport, our narrator listens as Jeff Cook, a former classmate he only vaguely remembers, shares the uncanny story of his adult life—a life that changed course years before, the moment he resuscitated a drowning man.
Jeff reveals that after that traumatic, galvanizing morning on the beach, he was compelled to learn more about the man whose life he had saved, convinced that their fates were now entwined. But are we agents of our fate—or are we its pawns? Upon discovering that the man is renowned art dealer Francis Arsenault, Jeff begins to surreptitiously visit his Beverly Hills gallery. Although Francis does not seem to recognize him as the man who saved his life, he nevertheless casts his legendary eye on Jeff and sees something worthy. He takes the younger man under his wing, initiating him into his world, where knowledge, taste, and access are currency; a world where value is constantly shifting and calling into question what is real, and what matters. The paths of the two men come together and diverge in dizzying ways until the novel’s staggering ending.
Sly, suspenseful, and “gloriously addicting” (BuzzFeed), Mouth to Mouth masterfully blurs the line between opportunity and exploitation, self-respect and self-delusion, fact and fiction—exposing the myriad ways we deceive each other, and ourselves.
About the Author
Antoine Wilson is the author of the novels Panorama City and The Interloper. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, StoryQuarterly, Best New American Voices, and the Los Angeles Times,among other publications, and he is a contributing editor of A Public Space. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and recipient of a Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin, he lives in Los Angeles. His website is: AntoineWilson.com.
“A slow burn à la Patricia Highsmith that keeps us terminally off balance.” —Oprah Daily
“Psychologically complex and suspenseful until the literal last sentence, it uses every word of its 200 or so pages to the fullest.” —NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour
“[An] enthralling literary puzzle… Wilson is a gorgeous writer, pulling you in and compelling you to keep reading. The story, and the story-within-the-story — the twists and turns, the attention lavished on motivation and emotion, the efforts to rationalize or at least explain strange or unsavory behavior — recall the cool prose of Paul Auster… This powerful, intoxicating book’s greatest tension is that we have no idea where it is heading, right up to the shocking final sentence.” —Sarah Lyall, The New York Times
“[A] taut, compulsive chamber piece of a novel, which you’ll struggle not to rip through in one sitting… Mouth to Mouth is an elegantly told and supremely gripping tale of serendipity and deception—and delivers a brilliant ending that will leave you guessing about everything that came before.” —Vogue
“Wilson is a first-rate yarn spinner… [a] sly and energetic novel.” —The Washington Post
“Incredibly taut, with funny and brilliantly described scenes of the Los Angeles art world... [Mouth to Mouth is] powered by a kind of ominous propulsive forward momentum right up until the very end, which is unexpected and inevitable, as all the best endings are.” —Vanity Fair
"Oh, to have an afternoon free and to have not yet read Mouth to Mouth! ... [A] sleek train crash of a novel." —Maris Kreizman, Vulture
“A gloriously addicting tale of decisions and deception… Despite the story being a short once, it doesn’t lack suspense — and Wilson’s ending delivers.” —Buzzfeed
“Antoine Wilson’s Mouth To Mouth is the best book I’ve read in ages. Narratively ingenious, delicately written, intriguingly plotted, it is literature of the highest quality. I see you now, dear Reader, with this novel in your hand and already losing track of time….” —Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less
“Mouth to Mouth is that rarity, a perfect narrative machine, working by its own laws. The cool nervous clarity of the prose enmeshes the reader in a trap of complicity, one snapping shut on narrator and reader at the same instant. Bravo.” —Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude
"Antoine Wilson's Mouth to Mouth is sleek, swift, and graceful, an agile novel of ideas with unexpectedly sharp teeth." —Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Florida
"The writing is superb, the pace pitch-perfect, the slim story so gripping I read it within 24 hours... It starts with a near-drowning and unfolds naturally, with turns so shocking that I had no idea where the tale was going." —Lauren Daley, TheBoston Globe
“[A] propulsive… page-turner… A deliciously nasty morality play in the guise of a thriller.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[A] shifty work of psychological suspense…There’s plenty of satisfaction in watching the characters navigate the blurred line between plausibility and truth.” —Publishers Weekly
"By the end of the slim volume Antoine Wilson has made sure to wallop the reader with the realization that the story has been eerier than they ever realized." —Entertainment Weekly
“Reminiscent of the cult classic film My Dinner with Andre… Antoine Wilson's slyly disturbing and shrewd novel presents two college acquaintances who unexpectedly cross paths at an airport almost 20 years later… Stopping isn't an option: that final sentence rewards readers with a didn't-see-that-coming gut punch.” —Shelf Awareness
"The sinewy and mesmerizing narrative of Antoine Wilson’s masterful novel aims straight at the heart of the mythologized self, which, like the world of art and commerce that provides the story’s backdrop, trades in all forms of performance and deception. Not unlike the novel itself, which asks us to believe and doubt and then believe again within the space of a single sentence. Wilson’s on a high wire and he never makes a wrong move." —Marisa Silver, author of Little Nothing and The Mysteries
"Antoine Wilson has written a spellbinding novel of laserlike insight and exquisite technique that reveals how stories can function to conceal other stories. I read this book in one rapturous sitting, jotting down line after line, riveted until the final shocking, clarifying sentence." —Sarah Manguso, author of Ongoingness
"Compulsively readable. This austere and addictive novel interrogates the very nature of identity, destiny and storytelling." —Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master's Son
“Antoine Wilson has written a stunner of a novel. Mouth to Mouth shook and thrilled me from the first page to the last.” — Daniel Alarcón, author of The King is Always Above the People and At Night We Walk in Circles
"Riveting and sharp, Mouth to Mouth is an engrossing look at the opportunities and events that change and shift lives in drastic fashion." —Off the Shelf
“This book might be sold as a psychological thriller, but it’s really—and, if allusions can be spoilers, then this might be a big one—a Gen-X Greek revenge fantasy. Gnarly, dude.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
"[A] roller-coaster ride of a novel." —Alta
"This psychological novel, which takes a page from American crime writer Dorothy B. Hughes, is an exciting, seamy pleasure to read." —Everything Zoomer
"Wilson chronicles the aftermath of a lifesaving rescue of an art dealer — and the twisting corridors of power and identity that this novel’s protagonist ends up hurtling down in its wake." —Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“A memorable novel that keeps the reader enthralled right up to the final line… masterfully written [and] undeniably compelling… Mouth to Mouth is a story within a story and it is a perfect January read to curl up with on a cold day.” —The Suburban
“Wilson writes a compulsively readable narrative up to the very end.” —The Los Angeles Daily News
“Propulsive, slim, and inventive… Mouth to Mouth [is a] Russian doll of a novel.” —Sloane Crosley, Departures
“Written in smooth, elegant prose that vibrates with a malevolent undercurrent, this psychological thriller brings to mind Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train… a multi-level cat and mouse affair…” —Passport Magazine