Thursday, April 6, 2017

Tell Me How This Ends Well

Tell Me How This Ends Well by David Samuel Levinson
Hogarth: 4/4/17
eBook review copy; 416 pages
ISBN-13: 9780451496881

Tell Me How This Ends Well by David Samuel Levinson is a highly recommended novel featuring black humor, a dysfunctional family, and an anti-Semitic America.

It's 2022 and the Jacobson family is gathering for Passover in Los Angeles. Jacobson siblings Mo, Edith, and Jacob are also plotting to kill their father, the despicable, abusive Julian who has made their lives and their mother Roz's life miserable. Now Roz only has a few months left to live and the siblings are sure Julian is trying to hurry her death along so he can have complete control of her inherited fortune. After putting up with his emotional, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse for years and watching their mother's plight, it is time to end Julian's reign of terror while the whole family is together to celebrate Passover. This is assuming, naturally, that the three can work together and put old grudges aside.

The novel is told in four large sections by each of the siblings and Roz. Then there is a final word by Jacob.
Jacob Jacobson is the gay son who is currently a playwright living in Berlin with his German lover, Dietrich. Jacob and Dietrich have traveled together for what Jacob is sure will be the last time he sees his mother alive.
Edith Jacobson Plunkett, or Thistle, is currently a divorced college ethics professor who has a sexual harassment suit filed against her.
Moses Orenstein-Jacobson, or Mo, is an actor married to Pandora. They have triplets and twins, all boys, and starred in their own reality TV show called The JacobSONS! The family is meeting at their home, where the Passover Seder will be filmed as a special episode of The JacobSONS!
Rosalyn Jacobson, or Roz, the mother of the three, has a surprising chapter of revelations and insights.

Along with the back stories of the four and the current murder plot of the three siblings, there is also plenty of insight into all the abuse Julian heaped upon his family. Julian is a truly evil character with no redeeming qualities at all and continues in the novel to verbally and physically abuse his family. You will want to see him get what he deserves and appreciate the black humor as his demise is debated. The siblings are not lovable characters either, but even with all of their flaws they are definitely better than Julian.

Added to the whole grim atmosphere is the less humorous and more insidious anti-Semitism running rampant in this not-to-distant-future America. In 2022 Israel is no more, after a war during which the United States did nothing. Now 4 million Jewish refugees have relocated to the U.S., which has resulted in a violent xenophobic reaction and constant domestic terrorism.

Tell Me How This Ends Well is very well written and I liked the chapters narrated from the point-of-view of an individual sibling. The characters are extremely well-developed. While some of the action is a bit farcical, it is entertaining - and disturbing. The best part of the novel is the inept plotting of the three siblings. Some of their actions and reactions are humorous and make the novel a pleasure to read. The increasing and ever present anti-Semitism is just disturbing and upsetting; it is perhaps a bit too realistic in this particular setting.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Hogarth.

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