The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin
Henry Holt & Company: 4/17/18
eBook review copy; 336 pages
The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin is a recommended intergenerational family drama following three generations of two
interconnected Cleveland families, one black, one white, from the 1970s to 2009.
The drama centers on a 1973 drug deal gone bad and is concerned with a
missing suitcase that may contain a quarter of a million dollars. Leland
Bloom-Mittwoch, a drug addict, witnesses the shooting of his dealer,
Marshall. Leland takes off with a suitcase full
of cash. The story is then told from the multiple viewpoints of
members of both Leland’s and Reggie’s families for the next 30
The novel is less of a mystery with members looking for the suitcase,
than it is a compilation of character
studies. Each character has a chapter to discuss their formative
years and a crucial event during that time that other characters share.
Since the novel opens with two pages of family trees, that fact that it
is a heavily populated novel shouldn't be a surprise. Frumkin places her
various characters in the same historical events from different
points-of-view. She has her characters throwing blame for their
misfortune on the other family. Her flawed characters deal with mental
self-delusions, addiction, poverty, and racism.
The Comedown is an ambitious debut novel with a complex plot set
in a well-researched historical context. It is also a novel that didn't
completely work for me. The individual stories are very strong,
engrossing character studies, but there are an overabundance of
characters, several of which didn't need to be a part of the novel.
There didn't need to be quite so many characters because, at the end,
there was a lack of a coherent connection between all of the characters
and a plethora of loose ends never addressed. As a reader, this bothers
me. I was also not a great fan of the style in which the novel is
written. The quality of the writing is quite good, however, which places
Frumkin as a novelist I will watch for in the future. Many people liked
the novel much more than me, so I'm sure that my issues with it are
more a matter of personal preference.
My review copy was courtesy of Henry Holt & Company.