Book Review

Tell Me How This Ends Well

Tell Me How This Ends Well by Samuel David Levinson
Release Date: April 4th, 2017
Publisher: Hogarth Press

♥♥♥

Why is tonight different from all other nights?
Tonight we kill dad.

In 2022, American Jews face an increasingly unsafe and anti-Semitic landscape at home. Against this backdrop, the Jacobson family gathers for Passover in Los Angeles. But their immediate problems are more personal than political, with the three adult children, Mo, Edith, and Jacob, in various states of crisis, the result, each claims, of a lifetime of mistreatment by their father, Julian. The siblings have begun to suspect that Julian is hastening their mother Roz’s demise, and years of resentment boil over as they debate whether to go through with the real reason for their reunion: an ill-considered plot to end their father’s iron rule for good. That is, if they can put their bickering, grudges, festering relationships, and distrust of one another aside long enough to act.

And God help them if their mother finds out . . .
Tell Me How This Ends Well presents a blistering and prescient vision of the near future, turning the exploits of one very funny, very troubled family into a rare and compelling exploration of the state of America, and what it could become.

In Samuel David Levinson’s Tell Me How This Ends Well, we meet the three adult Jacobson siblings. Mo (actor, reality star, father of five boys), Edith (divorced ethics professor, queen of horrible decisions), and Jacob (playwright, gay, living in Germany, dating a German). They’re all concerned for their mother, Roz, and hold an immense disdain for their father, Dr. Julian Jacobson.

The story started slow – extremely slow, like glacier pace – so slow that I nearly dropped it in the dreaded DNF pile.

It begins with Jacob, on visit for Passover with his boyfriend, Dietrich – Diet for short – in America where the Jewish are under attack. He sees several bombing attacks against Jewish drivers on the road. It’s his main idea to kill Julian for all the horrible things Jacob, Edith, and Mo had to endure during their childhood – what really cements the idea is their mother’s diagnosis and her imminent death because she was only given a few months to live. Then we see Edith, under investigation for sexual harassment against a student at Emory, her job in jeopardy. She’s a Daddy’s Girl at heart, slowly reexamining her childhood to see for herself if her father deserves to die. What she remembers, her near-fatal allergy attack and her destroyed marriage, slowly begins to sway her. Then there’s Mo, quietly separated from his wife, Pandora, and slowly trying to rebuild his acting career but finding it difficult with the silent ban on hiring Jewish actors. He’s definitely for the death of their father, he just needs a way to do it. Then there’s Roz, devoted to Julian despite everything she’s witness because all she’s ever been is Mrs. Dr. Julian Jacobson.

I found this novel written well but needlessly long. So much explanation interjected between the story that I grew lost and often had to reread long paragraphs to understand what was said, what was done, what was memory, and who is who.

But Levinson has a talent with telling a tale in such a way that it intrigues you. The will they, won’t they made me pull through, my love for mystery making me push through.

The big thing I didn’t like about this novel has nothing to do with the story, but that there aren’t chapters. It’s styled in each person’s point of view and each person has a different day. So there are large chunks to go through entire days, starting with Jacob, then with Edith, then going to Mo. I love sections like this with more chapters to break up the parts, for me, it would have been easier to read.

What I liked about this novel was the added fear in the background of the story, the fear for the Jewish people. It was weird to see it happening to a different community than typically depicted. But it seemed a little farfetched and like we were going backward in history. I know it’s always a possibility, being that this novel takes place in 2022, who knows what the world could be like then. I liked seeing that tension.

I also enjoyed learning more about the Jewish culture and the Passover holiday in general. I haven’t read many novels that focus on either of those things and it was new and different, I like reading about new cultures and their influence on the characters.

All in all, I’m not sure who I would recommend this novel to. I would need to read more novels similar to see who would enjoy it most. It lost me early on but gained me back in the middle and it’s one of those books I just needed to push through which isn’t something people like to hear.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for review.

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