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Extended Audio Sample The Antagonist, by Lynn Coady Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (570 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Lynn Coady Narrator: MacLeod Andrews Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A piercing epistolary novel, The Antagonist explores, with wit and compassion, how the impressions of others shape, pervert, and flummox both our perceptions of ourselves and our very nature.

Gordon Rankin, Jr., aka “Rank,” thinks of himself as “King Midas in reverse”—and indeed misfortune seems to follow him at every turn. Against his will and his nature, he has long been considered—given his enormous size and strength—a goon and enforcer by his classmates, by his hockey coaches, and, not least, by his “tiny, angry” father. He gamely lives up to their expectations, until a vicious twist of fate forces him to flee underground. Now pushing forty, he discovers that an old, trusted friend from his college days has published a novel that borrows freely from the traumatic events of Rank’s own life. Outraged by this betrayal and feeling cruelly misrepresented, he bashes out his own version of his story in a barrage of e-mails to the novelist that range from funny to furious to heartbreaking.

With The Antagonist, Lynn Coady demonstrates all of the gifts that have made her one of Canada’s most respected young writers. Here she gives us an astonishing story of sons and fathers and mothers, of the rewards and betrayals of male friendship, and a large-spirited, hilarious, and exhilarating portrait of a man tearing his life apart in order to put himself back together.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Only a writer as wonderfully gifted as Lynn Coady could elicit such extraordinary sympathy for a man as full of self-destructive rage as Rank, her main character. You won’t soon forget either him or this haunting novel.” 

    Richard Russo

  • “Coady’s fluency in the language of the college boy [is] impressive, [as is] her feel for the camaraderie that is inseperable from rivalry and masculine aggression.”

    New Yorker

  • “An extraordinarily clever and sympathetic exploration of the cross-currents of male friendship, the intense relationships we make and abandon in school.”

    Washington Post

  • “A dramatic and funny confessional in reverse.”

    Marie Claire

  • “The pathos and humor brought to a challenging life story will appeal to many readers.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “This very human drama, laced with humor and insight, is strongly recommended.” 

    Library Journal

  • “It’s Coady’s ability to realistically portray Rank’s teens and university years and empathically conduct his search for self that makes The Antagonist more than just entertainment.”


  • “Smartly tuned and as unsettling as it intends to be.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalist
  • A 2013 Washington Post Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Tim Grace | 2/13/2014

    " Quite enjoyed this book about a person who punished himself so much for things he couldn't control in his earlier life that he prevented himself from really growing up. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Lori | 2/12/2014

    " This book unfolds in an interesting way. The author is Canadian, and now resides in Edmonton. The story was interesting, and the perspective it was told from added to the intrigue. It was a bit tedious (the voice tells his story, but is simultaneously telling his version of the same story as told by someone else (the voices in the book are not as confusing as my sentence might make it appear) in parts, but I enjoyed the journey. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Samantha | 2/12/2014

    " This book is amazing. Coady relates the story of Gordon Rankin in a series of unanswered emails. They slowly unravel the mystery of Rank's history, and the myth he's been telling himself about who he is. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Chelsey-Marie | 2/11/2014

    " I read this book more because of who wrote it rather than an interest in the plot. I wasn't all that drawn to the idea, but once I started, Rank pulled me in quickly. He's such a surprising character and even though he and I are so, so different, as the book goes by, I think a lot of people would start to see aspects of themselves in him - his desire for people to interpret him properly, not to peg him down as a certain stereotype, etc. It's a pretty universal struggle from adolescence into adulthood. He wants to be recognized for what he is, and yet he thinks very little of himself at times. He's worried that only his mistakes will define him in others' eyes, but he won't look at himself in a different light, either. I think that's a very natural place to go when mistakes are made, accidents happen, that define others' lives. Rank only sees how he has hurt those around him, is desperate for everyone to see them as they were, accidents, but takes full responsibility as if they were intentional. His struggles with religion, similarly, show his need for forgiveness and self deprecation. At the same time, he is a fiercely proud character. I ended up very fond of Rank by the end. Both books I read by Coady astounded me with her casually portrayed insight - she doesn't shove it down your throat and the writing itself is accessible without being lazy, but she creates HUMAN characters that show an amazing eye on her part. The books have dramatic plots, but they feel as though they naturally occurred because of the people involved rather than were plotted. I thought this was a wonderful character study that cemented Coady as a favourite of mine. "

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About the Author

Lynn Coady was nominated for the 1998 Governor General’s Award for Fiction for her first novel, Strange Heaven. She received the Canadian Authors Association Award for the best writer under thirty and the Dartmouth Book and Writing Award for fiction. Her second book, Play the Monster Blind, was a Globe and Mail Best Book of 2000; Saints of Big Harbour was a Globe and Mail Best Book in 2002. Her articles and reviews have appeared in several publications including Saturday NightThis magazine, and Chatelaine. Lynn Coady lives in Edmonton, Alberta.