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Vocal Book Club: Trust by Hernan Diaz

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By Erica WagnerPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 2 min read
Top Story - February 2024

In Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens (published in English in 2014) we are reminded of how much fiction underpins our lives. Fiction, Harari argues, is one of the great engines of culture. Religion is a story many choose, collectively, to believe: it is the story that creates culture and cohesion. He uses the example of a brand — Peugeot — to enquire how we imbue fictions with significance. What connection can anyone now make between a company founded in the early 19th century with the car manufacturer of today? What does the “Peugeot” symbol on the front of an automobile signify? There’s one answer: a story. Perhaps you buy the car because, at some level, you believe the story.

One of the greatest fictions of all, of course, is money. I hand you some pieces of paper, or a piece of plastic, and in exchange you hand me… actual stuff. We all have to agree that the paper and the plastic have value, or the game’s up — as has been proven over and again, perhaps most notably in 1929 and in the Great Depression that followed. The pieces of paper can be dollars (pick your currency); they can be shares in a company. They depend on a story, and that we trust the storyteller.

Hernan Diaz’s novel, Trust, the 2023 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction, interrogates this idea in a brilliantly entertaining and effective way, constantly springing surprises on the reader so that we must continue to question why and how the tale is being told. Financial mogul Andrew Bevel hires a young woman from Brooklyn, Ida, to be his secretary and ghostwriter. Of his work moving markets he says: “My job is about being right. Always. If I’m ever wrong, I must make use of all my means and resources to bend and align reality according to my mistake so that it ceases to be a mistake.”

But the book does not begin with Bevel’s story: it begins as the story of a Wall Street tycoon called Benjamin Rask; the reader might think this is the novel itself, but it’s a tale within a tale, for Rask’s life is a fiction from a novel called Bonds — based on Bevel’s life. Who to trust? Hernan Diaz’s novel is a sequence of these switchbacks and shifts in perspective, disorienting and cleverly constructed. The Pulitzer Prize jury called it “a complex examination of love and power in a country where capitalism is king.”

I’m very much looking forward to the conversation around this intriguing novel. Here are some questions to get us started. As ever, thanks so much for being a part of the Vocal Book Club.

Trust Discussion Questions

Warning: if you haven’t read the book yet, you may find spoilers below in the questions.

  1. Why do you think Hernan Diaz chose to tell his story from different perspectives in this way?
  2. How did the changes in storytelling technique make you feel about the characters?
  3. How did it make you as a reader reflect on how we “trust” the teller of any story?
  4. What did Trust make you think about how we tell stories from history, and whose stories are eventually recorded and remembered?

These questions are only prompts, of course: join in the conversation any way you like and we'll meet you in the comments section below!

Upcoming Vocal Book Club Picks

FEBRUARY: Promise by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Vocal Book Club

About the Creator

Erica Wagner

Lead Editorial Innovator, Vocal. Author, critic, friend, parent, cook. New book: Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge. Twitter: @EricaWgnr, Insta: @ericawgnr

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  1. Eye opening

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    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (14)

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  • ROCK 2 months ago

    Sharing your review with my book group! Congratulations 👏👏

  • Scott Christenson2 months ago

    Well the bot comments here got a laugh from me today! I just checked in to say sadly i didn't find time to read Trust this month, I'm still swimming through the brilliant prose of Less, by Andrew Sean Greer, which is a great book but not exactly a fast page turner. Hope everyone enjoyed the book!

  • Dariusz 2 months ago

    Congratulations on top story :)

  • Andrew Pretzel2 months ago

    Not surprising it's been highlighted as the top story. Really impressive work.

  • Andrew Zuk2 months ago

    Congratulations on your Top Story, 💖❤👍

  • Anna 2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳

  • masterplay972 months ago

    Great post

  • olymoolla2 months ago


  • Caroline Jane2 months ago

    Read it!! 😅 Handbrake turning in as ever! Thoughts from me: What a fantastic idea to write a book showing how perspective colours everything. Who to trust? Very apt title that I thought referred to a "trust fund" at first. 😅 It was wonderful to get under the skin of the characters. I adore 1st POV so this really floated my boat. I especially enjoyed Mildred for the obvious reasons, but mostly because she was so unaffected by anybody. An unadulterated, albeit betrayed, soul... with such outstanding insight. Incredible! The music theme: bells, rhythms was so on point to the story of how she achieved. Very clever and lovely touch. This was like a society whodunnit. The murder ... an assassination of character (s). The narrative could have been repetitive, but instead, it was akin to a Russian doll, each de-mystified character revealing more of the truth... until the essence of it all appears. I see why it has been so well received. I would recommend!

  • Babs Iverson3 months ago

    1. That's a good question. It would have been better as one historical fiction. 2. & 3 When someone says, "trust me," you immediately feel uncomfortable and you distrust them. Characters couldn't be trusted.

  • Test3 months ago

    Excellent work! Keep up the fantastic effort—congrats!

  • Annie Kapur3 months ago

    I read "Trust" and honestly I didn't like it all that much I thought a lot of it was a little bit convoluted for no reason. But the ending was pretty good, I thought that was clever.

  • Scott Christenson3 months ago

    Great introductory about Sapiens, I so much enjoyed learning the ideas in that book. Will give Trust a read this month! Seen it in so many lists of top books.

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