What changes will the year 2022 bring? A mere five years in the future, but still, one can look forward to at least a modicum of progress, right? An inching toward that ever-present goal of harmony and justice? Unfortunately not so in the fictional world David Samuel Levinson presents us with in his new, acerbic satire Tell Me How This Ends Well. In it, we explore the dangerously anti-Semitic Los Angeles through the eyes of a dysfunctional Jewish family.
The novel is divided into three major sections, each focusing on the daily thoughts and actions of one of the adult Jacobson children. Through these in-depth third-person-limited perspectives, we get a vivid picture of the family dynamic, focusing on the verbal and psychological abuse suffered by them all courtesy of the family patriarch, their father Julian. A narcissistic, controlling, close-minded individual, Julian appears to have incited much resentment within his children, who have come to suspect that he is mistreating their ailing mother. Amidst the chaos of suicide bombers- a not uncommon occurrence in the current climate- and hateful slurs from strangers, the siblings reconvene in Los Angeles with a tentative plan to murder their father.
I cannot lie. This was a tough work to get through. Not because of the biting satire, which I actually quite appreciated, but because of my ambivalence toward the majority of the characters. Most are deeply flawed and not so much in an anti-hero/anti-heroine way, as much as in an unrelatable way. Yet, this struggle to identify with and even like the trio adds to the tension of the plot and reveals just how terrifying this new world can be.
I particularly liked the section that focused on Edith, the lone Jacobson daughter. It was interesting to read how she is described and thought of by her brothers versus the reality of her thoughts and actions. I also greatly appreciated the metaliterary elements of the book and the understated yet highly chilling close. Levinson provides quality social commentary and advocates for various marginalized populations within the book, providing us with a haunting warning of what could become our not-too-distant future.
*- I received a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.