FICTION

The Smash-Up

Random. Feb. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9780593229651. $27.
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Two years after the 2016 presidential election, the Frome household is splintering. Husband Ethan is perplexed by his wife’s behavior. Zo is rarely at home, and when she is, she’s either compulsively ordering new household items that they don’t need or hosting her women’s protest group, All Them Witches. Life in the small Berkshires town where they moved from Brooklyn 15 years ago isn’t exactly stimulating. Ethan ferries their hyperactive 11-year-old daughter, Alex, to the precious, expensive school they can barely afford and lusts after their live-in babysitter, Maddy the millennial. But just when you think you know where this narrative is going, Benjamin flips the script expertly. The Brett Kavanaugh hearings are on TV, the women’s group is ready to erupt, and Ethan’s former business partner Randy is calling him nonstop about some #MeToo lawsuits piling up against him. He asks Ethan to help him out--otherwise those residual checks the Fromes are living on will cease.
VERDICT In her fantastic adult debut, YA and middle grade author Benjamin (The Next Great Paulie Fink) skewers her subjects but still preserves their humanity. New York expats, middle-aged Gen-Xers, disaffected millennials, conniving school moms, exasperating children with improbable names--all get the gimlet eye in this timely, witty novel.

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