Tell Me How This Ends Well
In David Samuel Levinson’s new novel, the year is 2022, which once upon a time would have felt like some kind of distant future, but now feels like it’s just over the horizon. The political climate in this fictional world is also uncomfortably close to our present reality; the state of Israel has been dissolved, and the resulting Jewish diaspora is encountering an ever-more-virulently anti-Semitic world.
Against this backdrop, readers are introduced to the Jacobson family, who are about to have a reluctant family reunion to celebrate Passover at oldest son Mo’s Los Angeles home. Mo, a washed-up Hollywood actor and erstwhile reality TV star, has invited his two younger siblings, Edith and Jacob, as well as their aging parents --- but not, as one might imagine, to heal the rifts that have long divided them, as a means of combating an increasingly hostile world. Instead, Mo and Jacob have decided to use this family gathering as an opportunity to finally murder their father, Julian.
"Focusing in turn on Jacob, Edith, Mo and Roz, the book works best as a series of character studies.... Read in sequence, these character studies form a portrait...of a family whose own rifts and schisms may or may not be too great to ever overcome."
Julian, a verbally abusive, seemingly loveless man, has been bullying Mo, Jacob and their mother Roz as long as either of the boys can remember. Now that their mother has been diagnosed with a rare and terminal pulmonary disease, the two sons have realized that they can’t abide his overbearing presence in her all-too-short life a moment longer. Having enlisted a somewhat reluctant Edith as well as an ally in Jacob’s German boyfriend Dietrich, the Jacobson sons have a motive and opportunity and are just waiting for the means to present itself. But perhaps they have all overestimated Roz’s fragility, as she potentially takes matters into her own hands.
At times, TELL ME HOW THIS ENDS WELL can seem confusing to the reader, as if the sprawling novel doesn’t know what it wants to be: is it a work of near-future speculative fiction? A social commentary? A family drama? Or a satire? Focusing in turn on Jacob, Edith, Mo and Roz, the book works best as a series of character studies. Jacob, for example, is a bewildered expat trying to reconcile his love for his boyfriend with Dietrich’s undeniably anti-Jewish origins. Similarly Edith, a professor of ethics, attempts to balance her affection for her father (something that’s in short supply from the rest of her family) with her growing realization that she, in fact, may not have been Julian’s most beloved child after all.
Read in sequence, these character studies form a portrait --- albeit a somewhat skewed one --- of a family whose own rifts and schisms may or may not be too great to ever overcome.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 7, 2017
Tell Me How This Ends Well
- Publication Date: April 4, 2017
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Hogarth
- ISBN-10: 0451496884
- ISBN-13: 9780451496881