The Hole We’re In is an adult book, published by Black Cat. When I searched for reviews, I was a little shocked that it was reviewed in Oprah’s magazine. With a discussion guide! Well well well. Good for Gabrielle Z.
At the end of the first chapter Roger Pomeroy admits he is looking at the hole in the stocking of his professor who playfully bats back, “How can you look at a hole?” Well, we have 283 pages of hole scrutinizing ahead. Some characters realize they are in a hole and try to get out, others just create giant holes and are clueless, and then there are those who just ignore the holes. Finances, school, marriage, children, friendships, religion, work – all holes. The small ones just as hurtful as the giant gaping ones with big signs that say THIS IS EFFED UP! (To quote Patsy.)
The book is split into 4 parts and spans several decades, ending up in 2022. We follow the Pomeroys, taking turns with dad Roger (Pastor Dad, a self-centered I have an opera in me! tool, mom George (an unbalanced, disconnected sad sack), Vinny (went to Yale and thus excommunicated from church and family), Helen (bored speech therapist, unremarkable), and Patsy (youngest by 10 years, Iraq War Vet, petite shoulders bear the weight of her family’s dysfunction).
We spend most of our time with Roger, George, and Patsy and the hell they make of each other’s lives. Zevin packs so much into this novel. I felt overwhelmed not only by the stories, but by the sadness. These characters wreck lives and it’s hard to go there with them. Roger is unlikeable in his self-delusion that he is doing God’s work. George isn’t any better and an even worse decision maker. Her betrayal of Patsy so enraged me that I could not come around when redemption was sought at the end. (It was brilliant writing, though. Kudos to Zevin on that one.) Vinny is really only around to provide a flipside of normalcy. Helen is boring and has the scary potential to become like her parents (deluded, careless). Patsy is the gamechanger. She challenges the “circumstances of her birth” and does realize the crap that has been dealt to her. Add to that a helping of PTSD from her time in the service. Good luck, Patsy!
As frustrated as I was reading it, I did recognize the great writing of Gabrielle Zevin. She takes a sharp look at social classes, family, and religion; really hitting hard at the hypocrisy of ultra-conservative religion. It is also dark and very funny which is signature Zevin. I love how Britney Spears is a major theme in the novel. How crazy is that? Crazy good. More funny parts: The Christmas play characters wore Halloween costumes (Gandalf=god, Princess Leia = Mary, Frodo = Joseph), Sabbath Day Adventists are vegetarians and own the 5th largest snack cake company in the USA, Big Rock in the novel is Round Rock, TX!, an image of Jesus appears on the ceiling of a Wal-Mart-type store over the contraceptive aisle.
The novel lumbered along, but was still a quick read. As hard as it was sometimes, the stories kept my curiosity. What next? Or, what can the author do to these people now? Good heavens!
Source: checked out from my library