The smash-up : a novel

by Benjamin, Ali,

Format: Print Book 2021
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In this "mesmerizing" ( The New York Times ) and modern take on Edith Wharton's classic Ethan Frome, the cultural and political battles of Resistance-era America invade a once stable family. Forced to define what they value most, can they come together after allowing the world to come between them?

"An astute commentary on the differences between Wharton's time and ours."-- Los Angeles Times

It's September 2018. In Washington, D.C., and in cities and towns across America, women have taken to the streets to protest a Supreme Court nominee. And in Starkfield, Massachusetts, a sleepy rural town where nothing much ever happens, Ethan Frome's otherwise quiet life has turned upside down.

Ethan's wife, Zo, is so enraged by the national political scene that she's transformed their home into a local headquarters for the Resistance. His college roommate and former business partner faces "Me Too" allegations, sending Ethan into increasingly desperate financial straits. His unruly, headstrong daughter, Alex, grows more challenging by the day.

Enter Maddy Silver--a breezy, blue-haired millennial making her way through the gig economy. Suddenly Ethan and Zo must question everything: their past, their future, their marriage, and what they value most. And all the while, a world-rocking cultural smash-up inches ever closer to home.

Inspired by a classic Edith Wharton novella about a strained marriage in a small town, The Smash-Up is at once an intimate, moving portrait of a family in distress, a vivid examination of our roiling national rancor, and a powerful exploration of how the things we fail to notice can shatter a family, a community, and a nation.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Benjamin's first novel for adults repurposes Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome in a contemporary reflection on power and sex that crystallizes the visceral rage surrounding the fraught confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. Ethan Frome's wife, Zo, and her cohort of friends, All Them Witches, gather in the Frome house in suburban Massachusetts to paint protest signs, dance with abandon in pink Pussy Riot-inspired balaclavas, and simmer together. Ethan is sympathetic but doesn't quite get it and feels disconnected from Zo, who is consumed by her activism. Neither has the focus or energy to fully engage with their complicated and difficult young daughter, Alex. Enter twentysomething caretaker, Maddie, who is too jaded to be a true MPDG (manic pixie dream girl) but is nonetheless the coy object of Ethan's obsession as he wistfully imagines a more passionate life and faces the consequences of actions by his skeevy former business partner. Benjamin's immediately engaging writing captures the complicated emotions and biting humor of these bruising times and their impact on relationships. As in Wharton's novel, these lives will be forever changed by what is headed their way, leaving the reader reflecting on how events seemingly out of our control--violent, political, distant, selfish, or selfless--alter our lives and how we might steer our own sleds."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "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.)"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Triangles (Interpersonal relations) -- Fiction.
Political activists -- Fiction.
Marriage -- Fiction.
Families -- Massachusetts -- Fiction.
Small cities -- Massachusetts -- Fiction.
Life change events -- Fiction.
Domestic fiction.
Publisher New York :2021
Edition First edition.
Language English
Description 335 pages ; 25 cm
ISBN 9780593229651
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