All This Could Be Yours

If an idealist had written Jami Attenberg's ruthless but rewarding All This Could Be Yours, Victor Tuchman's deathbed might have been the site of touching, tearful reconciliation. But Attenberg (The Middlesteins) is no such idealist, and she makes clear that Victor, whose recent stroke hangs over the novel, is not a good man. He is such an objectively bad man that his abuses taint the lives of nearly every character he interacts with. His wife, Barbra, remains madly in love with him, and yet she might also hate him, deeply, for the closed-off shell he's helped her become. Their daughter, Alex, is obsessed with uncovering her father's criminal activity, in hopes she might psychoanalyze her own shortcomings. Alex's brother, Gary, refuses to fly out to visit their father in the New Orleans hospital where he lies comatose. The life Gary has tried to build--as different from his own childhood as possible--is somehow crumbling around him, in large part due to Victor's disgusting choices.

Over the course of the novel, which takes place in one day but leaves room for perfectly paced exposition, readers are invited to understand how this family became such a mess. No one is meant to feel sympathy for Victor, but rather to recognize him. He is someone familiar--destructive, selfish, toxic. He is someone many have tried to love. Through the Tuchmans and the characters woven in as bystanders, Attenberg manages a realistic but moving tribute to both the fragility and power of family. --Lauren Puckett, freelance writer and editor

Powered by: Xtenit