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. Read more...
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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-02-20
- Reviewer: Staff
In Levinsons (Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence) prescient second novel, which speaks to the current political moment, the year is 2022 and anti-Semitism is on the rise in America. Against this background, the three adult Jacobson children gather in L.A. for their annual family Passover celebration. Jacob, a playwright, flies in from Berlin with his German lover, Dietrich. Moses, a former reality TV star, uses the holiday as a pretext for making a comeback, with his wife and their large brood accompanied by a camera crew. And Edith, a divorced college ethics professor, comes west while fighting a sexual harassment suit. All three have a secret agenda to kill their abusive father, Julian, on behalf of their terminally ill mother, Roz, who only has a few months to live. As the siblings squabble over the best way to accomplish this, they dredge up old rivalries and spend endless time re-evaluating the successes, failures, and old loves that have made up their lives to this point, making a case for the Passover Seder being the Jewish equivalent of Thanksgiving when it comes to airing family grievances. The characters here are gargoylesque caricatures, and the jokes, knowing and hilarious, fly fast and furious in the black comic manner of Bruce Wagner, Howard Jacobson, and Bruce Jay Friedman. The storys environment is claustrophobic, and in the books depiction of latter day anti-Semitism, Levinson leavens the humor with some chilling cautionary notes. (Apr.)
A Passover gathering with a comic, murderous twist
If there were a shade of comedy darker than black, David Samuel Levinson’s novel Tell Me How This Ends Well would define it. The story of an ill-conceived murder plot hatched by three adult children to dispatch their psychologically abusive father, it’s a devilishly funny and yet painfully honest dissection of one Jewish family’s angst, set against the backdrop of a terrifying near-future America in which anti-Semitism has emerged with renewed vengeance.
On an April weekend in 2022, the Jacobson family gathers at the San Fernando Valley home of Moses Orenstein-Jacobson, a B-movie actor and the star of a cancelled reality show that also featured his wife and their five sons. They’re joined by his sister Edith and, from Berlin, his brother Jacob and Jacob’s German partner, Dietrich.
Over the course of the weekend, the Jacobson siblings—in the presence of their mother, Roz, the victim of a terminal lung disease—rehearse their lifelong litany of grievances against their “mean, viperous, and unpredictable” father, Julian, a man with an uncanny knack for seeking out and exploiting each child’s point of maximum emotional vulnerability. Julian’s verbal cruelty, past and present, easily qualifies him for membership in any hall of fame of literary villainy. The Jacobsons’ murderous scheme, climaxing on the evening of a televised Passover Seder at Moses’ home, unfolds with the lack of professionalism and bizarre humor one would expect from such a profoundly damaged trio.
Levinson’s vividly imagined America is home to some 4 million Israeli refugees, an influx of new immigrants that sparks a wave of anti-Jewish terror that includes suicide bombings on the Los Angeles freeways and attacks on Jewish day schools. The hostile environment, which seems eerily plausible, only exacerbates the Jacobson family’s insecurity, heightening the tension that surrounds their criminal designs.
Tell Me How This Ends Well takes the familiar tropes of family conflict and flashes them in a funhouse mirror. Yet somehow, they emerge from that process of distortion ever more clearly reflected in our own minds.