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Everybody Rise


Everybody Rise

EVERYBODY RISE, a superb debut novel from award-winning New York Times reporter Stephanie Clifford, will quickly become the end-of-summer must-read. It gives readers a front row seat on the runway to the rise and fall of society wannabe Evelyn Beegan.

It is 2006. Facebook is only two years old, and iPhones have yet to be introduced to the world. The 2008 economic crisis is barely a blip on the horizon, the movers and shakers of New York City have money to burn at trendy night clubs, and socialites still read about last night’s big premiere in actual newspapers. Evelyn Beegan is 26, a graduate of Davidson College and an alumnus of the prestigious Sheffield prep school, who is trying to make it in the Big Apple alongside her friends from Sheffield. However, she doesn’t have the pedigree, Ivy League degree or high-powered job that allows them to live the comfortable life she feels she deserves. In fact, she has recently lost her job in textbook marketing and has landed at a new social media site --- People Like Us --- as membership director. Her assignment? Attract people with trust funds, lake houses and helicopters to the site, making and keeping it an exclusive and closed online club much like the society she always finds herself on the outskirts of.

Evelyn bluffed her way into the job, dropping names she vaguely remembered from prep school and allusions to benefits she didn’t attend. Her challenge now is to figure out a way to rub elbows with those people and get close enough to gently maneuver them towards membership in People Like Us. It will require actually going to Sheffield alumni events that she avoids out of insecurity and invitations to the right places --- not a problem as her Sheffield besties, Charlotte and Prescott, are part of this world and more than happy to include her on weekends to their “camps” at Lake George and the Hamptons.

Charlotte is a successful Harvard-educated woman in the male world of acquisitions, a reluctant member of New York society who is well aware of its shortcomings and pitfalls. From time to time, she tries to warn Evelyn of this and the fickleness of the crowd she is seeking to enroll, but her attempts prove fruitless. Prescott is struggling with his identity and spends more time inside of a bottle than out. The old Evelyn would have reached out to help him; the new Evelyn lashes out, abandoning him when he most needs a friend. He does help her make some connections, including introducing her to Scott, an Arizona native who has found banking success in NYC. Scott and Evelyn become a couple, but to her dismay, he is as much of an outsider as she is. She hears her mother’s voice inside her head pointing out the fact that he doesn’t play tennis and sometimes fumbles with social graces.

"EVERYBODY RISE should be in every beach bag as we head into Labor Day weekend. It is a delicious last bit of summer in a book, a juicy read with a questionable heroine and an inside glimpse into the world of the very privileged."

Evelyn hears the voice of her mother a lot: in her head, on the phone and in person. Barbara Beegan takes a strong interest in her daughter’s life --- too much interest, in fact. She has passed down a fierce desire to climb society’s ladder to Evelyn as surely as if it had been blue eyes or straight hair. She should be a content woman ready to enjoy the third phase of life, but her life has always been so focused on what she doesn’t have that she doesn’t appreciate what she does have --- a beautiful home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore; a successful litigator husband who might not have had the pedigree to which she aspired, but whose hard work has given her a pretty good life; and her beautiful twenty-something daughter, who has a good education and a whole life ahead of her. None of this, however, is enough for Barbara, whose entire raison d’être can be summed up in this one statement to Evelyn: “I don’t want you to make the same mistake as I did. Marrying someone on the fringes of the circle just puts you on the fringes of the circle, don’t you see?”

Can a mother’s plans and goals for her daughter be so domineering that the daughter never considers her own desires? Evelyn certainly doesn’t appear to do so, pinning her entire future on making the right marriage or finding the right set of friends. She seems to think that an income will just magically appear; when things finally do fall apart with People Like Us, she doesn’t understand Scott or Charlotte’s urgent concern when they ask “but what are you going to do?” Her new pal, Camilla Rutherford, doesn’t have to work. Why should she? Scott points out that Camilla is sitting on an investment account worth tens of millions of dollars, but Evelyn still fails to see the chasm separating her from Camilla’s life. For a while, she is allowed entry into the world. Her role is not as an insider but as more of a sycophant sidekick, yet she is blind to that.

Evelyn’s father, on the other hand, was a North Carolina mill town boy who, through hard work, became a very wealthy Wilmington, DE-based lawyer specializing in representing plaintiffs in pharmaceutical lawsuits. He anticipates that Evelyn will make her own way in the world --- an expectation usually thwarted by Barbara, who insists on paying the extra rent so that Evelyn can have an apartment with the right address (barely) and understands the need to traverse the social scene in up-to-the-minute fashions. As the book begins, Evelyn heads to Sag Neck (Barbara’s house has a name) to ask her parents for a little money to tide her over while getting situated at People Like Us. She finds out that Dale Beegan is being investigated by a grand jury on bribery charges that assert he paid for favorable testimony from witnesses in a plethora of cases. His law firm is distancing themselves from him, but neither Evelyn nor her mother is willing to even consider that any charges will stick.

In fact, throughout the entire book, Evelyn chooses to stick her head in the sand regarding her father’s travails, offering him little concern or support as she continues to show up with her hand out, wondering more about what her new friends would think about her having a father under investigation than worried for him. All Barbara and Evelyn seem to be able to think about is how this will affect them. Will Evelyn still be able to get a donation from his law firm for her friend’s big fundraiser? Will Barbara still get to call Sag Neck home? Dale’s reality could very well be prison, though neither woman ever stops to think about how the charges will affect anyone but themselves. Despite the plausible evidence supporting the accusations against Dale, he garners much sympathy from readers.

As the novel progresses and her quest to ingratiate herself with trust fund babies and jet-setting bachelors overtakes everything, including her credit card balances and budding relationship with Scott, Evelyn forgets that just because she works for People Like Us doesn’t mean she is like them. In fact, she becomes mired in lies regarding her own pedigree, portraying herself more “like them” --- debutante, granddaughter of a racquet club champ --- and less like who she really is. All of the people who were important to her fall by the wayside as she tries to keep up with those who really don’t care about her. In her calculated climb up society’s ladder, emotions and feelings become secondary to committee appointments and benefit invitations. Readers begin wondering just how much Evelyn is willing to sacrifice in reaching for the golden ring.

EVERYBODY RISE should be in every beach bag as we head into Labor Day weekend. It is a delicious last bit of summer in a book, a juicy read with a questionable heroine and an inside glimpse into the world of the very privileged. Most every reader will find a character with whom he or she can relate. Very few, though, will discover themselves wishing they were Evelyn Beegan…at least not until the end when she proves that maybe she is made of something more than her mother’s polished veneer.

Reviewed by Jamie Layton on August 27, 2015

Everybody Rise
by Stephanie Clifford

  • Publication Date: June 14, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 1250077508
  • ISBN-13: 9781250077509