Mouth to Mouth: A Novel
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.
ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2022 * An NPR and Time Best 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.
Praise for Mouth to Mouth: A Novel
“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
“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
"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
“A tale of deceit, intrigue, and tested morality...jaw-dropping." —Time, A Best Book of the Year