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The Cave Dwellers

The Cave Dwellers By Christina McDowell Summary

The Cave Dwellers: This “delicious take on the one percent in our nation’s capital” (Town & Country) and clever combination of The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Nest explores what Washington, DC’s high society members do behind the closed doors of their stately homes.

They are the families considered worthy of a listing in the exclusive Green Book—a discriminative diary created by the niece of Edith Roosevelt’s social secretary. Their aristocratic bloodlines are woven into the very fabric of Washington—generation after generation. Their old money and manner lurk through the cobblestone streets of Georgetown, Kalorama, and Capitol Hill. They only socialize within their inner circle, turning a blind eye to those who come and go on the political merry-go-round. These parents and their children live in gilded existences of power and privilege.

But what they have failed to understand is that the world is changing. And when the family of one of their own is held hostage and brutally murdered, everything about their legacy is called into question in this unputdownable novel that “combines social satire with moral outrage to offer a masterfully crafted, absorbing read that can simply entertain on one level and provoke reasoned discourse on another” (Booklist, starred review).

About the Author

Christina McDowell is the author of the critically acclaimed book, After Perfect: A Daughter's Memoir. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, HuffPost, The Guardian, O, The Oprah Magazine, LA Weekly, Marie Claire, USA Today, and The Village Voice, among others. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Christina is an advocate for restorative justice and criminal justice reform. The Cave Dwellers is her first novel. She lives in Washington, D.C.

The Cave Dwellers By Christina McDowell Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Doug Wallace pants while struggling to reach for the remote control on the edge of his desk. He fails. He lowers his head and wipes sweat with the back of his forearm, then tries again. His tailored J. Press suit pants, which make him feel superior, are around his ankles as he takes Cate, his new press secretary, from behind. She’s sprawled out on his mahogany desk. Yes. Blond, a good Christian girl from San Diego, small breasts, but he doesn’t care, her face, oh her face is fucking beautiful.

He flips her over, so young and sun-kissed; he doesn’t want to break her spirit, but he can’t help himself, this compulsion—he feels he needs her. He’s tired of looking into the dispassionate eyes of his wife, which are now tattooed with eyeliner. He can’t believe he’s been made senator of the great state of North Carolina, can’t believe this is his life now: the pounds of mahogany wood, brass doorknobs, a view of the Capitol. People want to hear what he has to say.

The cliché would be unbearable if state officials and politicians had never coerced young interns into having sex with them in what was simply “the conference room” throughout history: drawn curtains, empty walls, a cold wooden table. At least Doug had a leather desktop; this is progress, not perfection! A photograph (when Doug still had a full head of hair) with two college buddies at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration stares him down on his bookshelf: Look how far you’ve come.

On the television screen in Doug’s office—a millisecond: WARNING: This footage contains explicit content. Viewer discretion is advised. Static, then a shaky camera before interspersed sound bites of civilians: “Is that gunshots?… OH MY GOD, IT’S GUNSHOTS!” The sound of bullets like thundering raindrops, probably an AR-15. Civilians cast guttural screams that melt into sobs, beer cans and red cups scatter on top of what is becoming a bloodbath of average citizens that, let’s be honest, we don’t really care about. Perhaps the sound of a ticking bomb is nearby. No one knows. Not even the FBI agents. The broadcaster: “LIVE! From our nation’s cap—!


Doug drops the remote. It hits the side of his desk and falls to the floor with a pathetic thud.

What’s wrong, are you okay?” She speaks. She’s worried about him.

Nothing, nothing.” Doug’s focus reverts to Cate. He puts his hand over her mouth, cupping those plump lips, a loving gesture, because he doesn’t want to be reminded by the look of horror that will soon encompass that sweet face, a young Republican who surely must believe in sensible gun control. When she sees the young and slaughtered, she might not understand that his stocks are rising. AR-15 semiautomatic weapons are selling up to a total of fifteen every hour scrolls at the bottom of the screen.

Yes,” Cate groans, turning her baby face from left to right, grabbing her breasts, assuming Doug is catching glimpses of her ripe nipples, watching her. But Doug isn’t looking at her at all. In fact, neither one is looking at the other. Cate, lost in her own fantasy of what she believes this is, reminds herself that she is worth it, worth losing his marriage, his children, his reputation, his self-respect—this is love, she tells herself. But really, she’s confused. She thinks about how she’s going to start her public relations firm after they publicly declare their coupling—Doug will be her first client.

They will build a political empire together. Spend winter weekends hidden at the new seaside mansion in Nantucket; maybe she’ll buy him pants embroidered with baby whales on them for Christmas, he’ll love that.…

Doug humps like a pubescent boy, sweating profusely now, watching the TV as his gun stocks rise. Cate notices he’s not looking at her; she wraps her legs around his waist, pulls him into her with his tie, their noses touching. But Doug can’t bring himself to look at her. He closes his eyes, imagines the prostitute he met on a business trip to China, the porn star from the Pornhub video he watched in his home office last night before bed. He knows he’s made a mistake.

He opens his eyes. He looks up. Closed captions on the screen: The AR-15 is the country’s most popular rifle, now a symbol for all sides of America’s gun debate. Gun advocates say the problem isn’t the weapon—it’s the shooter.

“Oh God, I’m going to…”

It’s one of those damp fall sunsets when red and brown leaves stick to the street as the new season descends upon the nation’s capital. The barricade outside the Russell Senate Office Building, which blocks pedestrians from getting anywhere near the parking garage, lowers into the ground, releasing Doug in his black Porsche 911 out onto the streets of Southeast DC. Bureaucrats scatter toward the Metro like little windup toy soldiers—they have no opinions.

No identities, no ability to see any kind of truth other than a biweekly paycheck. Several white vans with FEDERAL POLICE: HOMELAND SECURITY written across the side blaze past. Doug doesn’t notice. He’s too busy searching for the hand sanitizer in his glove compartment while he’s calling Tim on speakerphone. Goddamn it. Doug slams the glove compartment closed, unable to find it. He sniffs his fingers.

Hello?” A voice on the other end of the phone.

Hey, Tim, it’s Doug,” he says, panicked.

Hey, Doug, how are you? Haven’t heard from you in a while.” Tim’s serenity is unnerving.

I thought about our last conversation, maybe I do have a problem. I suppose… Cate could be anyone.” Doug waits for Tim to respond, but there is only silence. “It’s just… I understand that she could be anyone from an intellectual place, but I just don’t feel that, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m saying.” Doug lets out a chuckle dabbled in shame.

Uh-huh.” Tim doesn’t offer advice. “Well, I’m about to walk into Al’s right now. You are always welcome back.

Doug tightens his grip around the steering wheel. “I’m on my way.

Doug speeds down Rock Creek Parkway, the remains of Oak Hill Cemetery climbing the hills above him, passing hundred-year-old tombstones, stone crosses, weeping angels, cenotaphs, and mausoleums. One day I will be buried there, he often thinks—with the generals, mayors, bankers, and senators who came before him. Famous men! With the Corcorans and the Grahams! Doug is completely unaware of his delusions of grandeur, just like most people he encounters.

He is only certain that he was born a “well-mannered” southern boy, son of the district attorney of Durham, North Carolina. His mother ran the local Sunday school while his father was busy locking up Black and brown people. (Doug doesn’t really get this, of course.)

As Doug slows down to look for the entrance he’s seeking, he remembers his older brother, Ken. Ken was born blind, and Doug blames his mother: despite her religious beliefs, she loved a dirty martini, a Marlboro Red, and Elvis. But Doug’s mother blamed the doctors. During a difficult labor, Ken was pulled out with metal tongs, crushing his soft head. This is the story his mother told, but he never tells. Ken died just before his eighteenth birthday after numerous health problems. His organs were weak.

The memory of his mother’s phone call flutters through Doug’s brain—the sound of her rocking on her knees, her sobbing groans letting him know, “He’s dead, he’s dead”—as it often does while he’s alone, driving in his car. The rage he holds for his mother rises in his chest. Ken’s death, the neglect Doug suffered as a child, his father’s empty bottles of bourbon are the instruments of his so-called intimacy issues, Doug’s undying need for power, achievement, and attention from women. The problem was first addressed long before he married Betsy.

When Doug was seventeen and he discovered that his mother was having an affair, he decided to fuck the family housekeeper. Days later, his father’s name and paycheck sent her back across the Atlantic to her family in Ghana. They never spoke of it again. And neither did Doug.

He looks down at the address in his phone, then squints at the gold numbers clinging to the side of a redbrick post anchoring two arches of a towering wrought iron gate. Wait a minute.

He knows this property! A Vanderbilt, a Mellon—he can’t remember, but it’s tucked high above the park where various gruesome and innocuous things have happened: the rotted flesh of a White House intern found, rape, impassioned lovers, tourists, the laughter of schoolchildren running around Peirce Mill, an old flower plantation where Black people were enslaved and later escaped. The horror and the glamour feed off each other in some diseased symbiosis necessary for making the town of Washington all at once riveting and disturbing.

Doug’s Porsche follows the beaming headlights to the front of the estate, beckoning him as if it were the solution. Tim stands illuminated in between enormous Doric columns with his arms folded: gold Rolex, boat shoes, argyle sweater. Doug parks, gets out, walks up, and shakes his hand. Tim pats him on the back as he leads him inside.

The walls of this mansion are covered in law books, encyclopedia collections, and photographs of foreign diplomats, kings, queens, and presidents—and Jeff Bezos. An original Chagall hangs above the library’s green marble fireplace, near which seven men are seated in Chippendale chairs that form a circle. The men are hard to differentiate from each other, rich white men who are undoubtedly power players. But you’d have to know what kind of car each one drives or the neighborhood in which he lives to truly know who he is: Kalorama, McLean, Chevy Chase, Georgetown.

You probably wouldn’t find any of them in Silver Spring, Bethesda, Arlington, or Old Town; those neighborhoods are for the average man at the Pentagon, or worse, the Chamber of Commerce. You might find one in Potomac or Great Falls, but only on acres of land on the cliffs above the Potomac River, and he’s retired and well into his seventies and refuses to admit he’s lost all his money and will soon file for bankruptcy and settle for a condo in Reston, Virginia.

More than half sit in J. Press suits, others in polos and khakis, maybe a red sweater tied around the shoulders. Glasses or mustache or clean-shaven—all have their legs spread, rubbing their hands up and down their knees.

They look up at Doug. “Welcome,” a few mutter, some nodding to acknowledge his existence because he’s important enough to be there. The hero, the lawyer! The man who, before taking office, bailed out the economy (AIG specifically), the man who saved their bonuses! Hear! Hear! The man who knows they’ll return the favor with political funding.

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The Cave Dwellers

The Cave Dwellers PDF

Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN1982132795, 978-1982132798
Posted onMarch 15, 2022
Page Count325 pages
AuthorChristina McDowell

The Cave Dwellers By Christina McDowell PDF Free Download - HUB PDF

The Cave Dwellers: This “delicious take on the one percent in our nation’s capital” (Town & Country) and clever combination of The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Nest explores what Washington, DC’s high society members do behind the closed doors of their stately homes.


Author: Christina McDowell

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