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The Unfolding


The Unfolding

Literature has given authors the opportunity to work through the issues of the day by pushing them through a wordy strainer, trying to make sense of something that is hard to put a finger on. These are brave writers, who pay for their thoughtfulness with either icon status or cancellation. A.M. Homes is an icon; during the pandemic, she clearly spent quality time creating a fable for the ages, for our recent history, as the world was still experiencing it. That is THE UNFOLDING.

"THE UNFOLDING is a wise book, finding the inner demons of a few and forcing us to look closely at how these situations have exacerbated the hidden but divisive problems of our country all along."

In a generation gap household lives the Big Guy; his wife, Charlotte; and their daughter, Meghan. The Big Guy is friendly with and perhaps influential to John McCain. He has what he considers high morals and likes to swim. He loves hotels and may be a big donor to the McCains and their ilk. It is 2008 as the story opens; the family is together on Election Day and losing their minds when Barack Obama wins the Oval Office. The Big Guy is worried about American democracy (his version of it), so he decides to pull together his political pals and plan a return to the old-fashioned politics of his America. However, Meghan has different ideas about how it should all go. And so begins a generational trauma, a tale of a generation gap so wide that it will take down the world they know it in one swipe.

“Among younger men there seems to be none of this. They expect a seat at the table just because they’ve shown up. That’s one of the issues: presumption plus arrogance and disrespect. They are bullish on themselves, survival of the fittest; I got mine you get yours. They don’t ask what they can do for others. They are focused on what’s next for them, their new house, bigger boat, second wife.” As the Big Guy’s personal life takes some big hits, he looks around at the younger generation and realizes that his way of life in the bigger realm is shifting in a most undesireable way. He needs to make something happen. But what, exactly, and how?

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Meghan is part of that shifting world. She sees the divide widen as well-meaning people with a lot of capitalist investment decide that the Republican party is their safe bet for continuing the world they think they own. She realizes that there is an unhealthy amount of mistrust and misinformation being bandied about. So she chooses not just to study history, but “to play a part in it. I want to make history, to live in history, and to be the history of the future.”

A.M. Homes is a great writer of family sagas. Set against the changing morals of a certain time, she often depicts the downfall of a family unit due to both unannounced pressure from the outside world and the inside push to try to save the false foundation within. With THE UNFOLDING, there is a sense of Homes as a great overseer of history, taking a look at one particular generation gap to represent the bigger gap that has led to the tumultuous America we know and live in today.

THE UNFOLDING is a wise book, finding the inner demons of a few and forcing us to look closely at how these situations have exacerbated the hidden but divisive problems of our country all along. It is an unusual and perhaps controversial attitude to consider the Obama-McCain race as a wakeup call for people on both sides of the aisle. My tired old brain would have thought that the Reagan era would be the start, but Homes proves me wrong. The racism and conflict that have wrested our attention in the larger American scene today certainly have a foothold in many eras of American history, but this is a warranted background to the story.

The book is deceptively easy to read, with a breezy, quiet style. Homes brings us one family’s journey to the two versions of America we see today. Along the way, we follow the hearts of two very different people who may actually want the same thing but have very different ways of finding it. The miasma of this literary America marches on in a far more entertaining and interesting way than does the real thing.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on September 16, 2022

The Unfolding
by A.M. Homes

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • ISBN-10: 0735225370
  • ISBN-13: 9780735225374