The Smash-Up

Ali Benjamin. Random House, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-22965-1
YA author Benjamin (The Thing About Jellyfish) revisits Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome in her adult debut, an ambitious if schematic novel of middle-aged liberal angst. Having cofounded a successful guerrilla marketing start-up, Bränd, Ethan Frome leaves New York City in the early 2000s for a quiet life in the Berkshires with his wife, Zo. In 2016, Donald Trump’s election marks a turning point: “It was good until it wasn’t. All of it: The town. His marriage. Their finances. The world.” Ethan is a common, though well-drawn, fictional type: an ironic, middle-aged underachiever beset by temptation (here it’s the live-in babysitter), yet too decent, or timid, to force the moment to its crisis. Zo, meanwhile, is part of a feminist activist group called All Them Witches and an independent filmmaker who has grown increasingly distant and enraged. With Zo fuming over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, Ethan becomes entangled, somewhat implausibly, in the #MeToo movement: his boorish Bränd cofounder asks him to help silence a Hollywood actress whose accusations could bring down the company. With satire and suspense, Benjamin handily encapsulates the incomprehension, sadness, and rage of the Trump era. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/17/2020
Release date: 02/02/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-593-22966-8
Paperback - 563 pages - 978-0-593-40141-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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