The Hole We’re In by Gabrielle Zevin
Thursday, Feb 25, 2010
The decisions we make to pursue or maintain an image affect our entire lives, and the lives of our children. Sure, it's a quick way to describe Zevin's new book but the devil sure is in the details... in the late 90s, Pomeroy family scion Roger leaves a comfortable school admin position to go back to college, where he swiftly loses his appetite for learning and begins an affair with his major professor. Wife Georgia is stricken by oldest daughter Helen's demands for a lavish wedding, mounting credit card debt, and the temptation to open yet another account using her oldest son's good record. Meanwhile, Patsy is the youngest kid who has been uprooted by the move to support Roger's schooling, and she finds a bit of romance only to be routed out by her ultra-religious family and shipped off to her grandmother's house to finish out high school.
The story really takes off in act two, when Patsy is basically disowned by Roger and told to find her own way to pay for college (as if the family had extra money floating around!). Patsy's solution is to enlist in the armed forces and finds herself in the desert, having married a high school classmate and now dealing with the demands of a family of her own. The effects of Roger & Georgia's decisions and debt fall crushingly on Patsy, who struggles to climb out of the titular hole that the family has occupied for so long.
While this novel has a lot to say about conservative/Evangelical Christianity, I'd say it's more about larger issues of class and culture in America. These things are intertwined, of course, and have a huge impact on the way we spend money and resources. I think it's a very relevant narrative that will appeal to a wide group of adult (and potentially older teen) audiences, and will spur avid discussion about causes and effects of things like the current recession, consumer debt, the intersection of personal desires and public politics, and the things we are passing on to subsequent generations.
my read shelf: