Picture-perfect evangelical family spirals out of control.
Zeroing in on the high anxiety that credit-starved Americans feel in the current economic climate, Zevin (Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, 2007, etc.) delivers a bitter yet believable portrait of the national dream gone terribly wrong. Broken into four sections that jump from 2000 to 2006 to 2012 to 2022, the novel chronicles the high times and bottom-hitting lows of a daydreaming dad and compulsive shopper mom who are trying to raise a family in the Seventh Day Adventist faith while keeping secrets that wreak havoc on their children. Roger Pomeroy is a 42-year-old former pastor who decides to go back to school and earn a doctorate, a decision that pushes his family to the brink of starvation while he carries on a sordid affair with his supervising professor. His wife Georgia, a data-entry clerk, is sucking the family credit cards dry to pay for the wedding of eldest daughter Helen. Despite their lies, Roger and Georgia are comforted by their faith. “The world tells you that all these secular debts matter, but my whole reason for being put here on this earth is to tell you that they do not. The only debts that matter are spiritual debts,” advises the preacher at their church. Georgia’s financial shenanigans, including the acquisition of credit cards in her children’s names, are hard on all the kids, but hardest on youngest daughter Patsy, who joins the Army in an attempt to earn enough money for college and is sent to Afghanistan.
Zevin’s ambitious reach into the future may put off some readers, but others will warm to her clear-eyed compassion for people doing the best they can and wreaking considerable damage along the way.