cover image The Comedown

The Comedown

Rebekah Frumkin. Holt, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-12752-5

Frumkin’s sweeping debut charts the complex, broken dynamics of two very different families across two generations. Heroin addict Leland Bloom-Mittwoch witnesses the shooting of his dealer, Reggie Marshall, in 1973. Deeply shaken, he takes off with a briefcase full of cash. Following Leland’s and Reggie’s families for the next 30 years, from Ohio to Florida and back, the novel slowly reveals a network of connections and secrets among the two clans as they blame others for their hardships. Reggie’s wife raises her twin sons alone in poverty, having given up her promising academic pursuits to marry the charming but shiftless Reggie. Leland abandons his wife and the son he feels unworthy of being his namesake to start a new life in Florida. Both generations stumble through affairs, suicide attempts, economic hardships, and chemical dependence, leaving a sense of deep unease haunting every life. Frumkin structures the novel by giving each character a chapter to recount their formative years and the same crucial events. The result is a messily realistic narrative with many loose ends and too much detail about minor players, yet with a powerful sense of personal blind spots and self-delusions. Fans of puzzling, epic family sagas will enjoy the layered narrative, but the roundabout path may put off some readers. (Apr.)