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The Smash-Up
Cover of The Smash-Up
The Smash-Up
A Novel
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Smart, sublime, and wickedly clever, The Smash-Up captures—then transcends—our current polarized moment “An exhilarating ride . . . hilarious . . . a modern and energetic...
Smart, sublime, and wickedly clever, The Smash-Up captures—then transcends—our current polarized moment “An exhilarating ride . . . hilarious . . . a modern and energetic...
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  • Smart, sublime, and wickedly clever, The Smash-Up captures—then transcends—our current polarized moment
     
    “An exhilarating ride . . . hilarious . . . a modern and energetic story about a marriage on the skids.”—The New York Times
     
    Ethan has always been one of the good guys… and for years, nobody has appreciated this fact more than his wife, Zo. Until now. Jolted into activism by the 2016 election, Zo’s transformed their home the headquarters for the local resistance, turning their comfortable decades-long marriage inside-out.

    Meanwhile, their boisterous daughter, Alex, grows wilder by the day. Ethan’s former business partner needs help saving the media company they’d co-founded. Financial disaster looms. Enter a breezy, blue-haired millennial making her way through the gig economy. Suddenly Ethan faces a choice unlike any he’s ever had to make.
     
    Unfolding over fivet urbulent days in 2018, The Smash-Up wrestles shrewdly with some of the biggest questions of our time: What, exactly, does it mean to be a good guy? What will it take for men to break the “bro code”? How does the world respond when a woman demands more?  Can we ever understand another's experiences… and what are the consequences of failing to try? Moving, funny, and cathartic, this portrait of a marriage—and a nation—under strain is, ultimately, a magic trick of empathy, one that will make you laugh and squirm until its final, breathless pages.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover “What happened?

    Everyone asked the question, had been asking for over a year. They asked while watching the news, that shitstorm of headlines, jump-cut footage of marches and speeches and hand-Sharpied cardboard, an endless swirling blizzard — a siege, really — of protests and counter-protests, action and reaction, people screaming at each other in the street, neighbor vs. neighbor, friend vs. friend. (Or too often: friends no more. We were in new territory. People were learning they had limits).

    What happened?  Reporters asked it in small-town diners over $7.50 lunch specials, BLTs cut into neat triangles, Heinz bottles perched like microphones on scratched formica tables.

    What happened? People asked each other in church basements, community centers, gyms, coffee shops, living rooms where they came together to weep, process, scribble on postcards, plan the revolution.

    What happened? Parents snapped off NPR mid-story, not wanting to answer questions from the backseat. College students climbed flagpoles, ripped down stars and bars. A giant inflatable chicken appeared behind the White House lawn, some sort of protest that no one entirely understood. Everything was some sort of protest now.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 7, 2020
    YA author Benjamin (The Thing About Jellyfish) revisits Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome in her adult debut, an ambitious if schematic novel of middle-aged liberal angst. Having cofounded a successful guerrilla marketing start-up, Bränd, Ethan Frome leaves New York City in the early 2000s for a quiet life in the Berkshires with his wife, Zo. In 2016, Donald Trump’s election marks a turning point: “It was good until it wasn’t. All of it: The town. His marriage. Their finances. The world.” Ethan is a common, though well-drawn, fictional type: an ironic, middle-aged underachiever beset by temptation (here it’s the live-in babysitter), yet too decent, or timid, to force the moment to its crisis. Zo, meanwhile, is part of a feminist activist group called All Them Witches and an independent filmmaker who has grown increasingly distant and enraged. With Zo fuming over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, Ethan becomes entangled, somewhat implausibly, in the #MeToo movement: his boorish Bränd cofounder asks him to help silence a Hollywood actress whose accusations could bring down the company. With satire and suspense, Benjamin handily encapsulates the incomprehension, sadness, and rage of the Trump era.

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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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The Smash-Up
The Smash-Up
A Novel
Ali Benjamin
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