March 2021 Indie Next List
“Ali Benjamin’s debut adult novel is an interesting portrayal of a contemporary marriage and the many pressures it faces. Through the lives of her main characters, Benjamin explores many present-day issues — the #MeToo movement, the place of social protests, the difficulties of childrearing, and the temptation of infidelity. As Zo and Ethan each face a moral dilemma, Benjamin shows us their individual struggles. While there is sadness and conflict in this book, there is also hope.”
— Jane Stiles, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA
In this “mesmerizing” (The New York Times) and modern take on Edith Wharton’s classic Ethan Frome, the cultural and political battles of Resistance-era America invade a once stable family. Forced to define what they value most, can they come together after allowing the world to come between them?
“An astute commentary on the differences between Wharton’s time and ours.”—Los Angeles Times
It’s September 2018. In Washington, D.C., and in cities and towns across America, women have taken to the streets to protest a Supreme Court nominee. And in Starkfield, Massachusetts, a sleepy rural town where nothing much ever happens, Ethan Frome’s otherwise quiet life has turned upside down.
Ethan’s wife, Zo, is so enraged by the national political scene that she’s transformed their home into a local headquarters for the Resistance. His college roommate and former business partner faces “Me Too” allegations, sending Ethan into increasingly desperate financial straits. His unruly, headstrong daughter, Alex, grows more challenging by the day.
Enter Maddy Silver—a breezy, blue-haired millennial making her way through the gig economy. Suddenly Ethan and Zo must question everything: their past, their future, their marriage, and what they value most. And all the while, a world-rocking cultural smash-up inches ever closer to home.
Inspired by a classic Edith Wharton novella about a strained marriage in a small town, The Smash-Up is at once an intimate, moving portrait of a family in distress, a vivid examination of our roiling national rancor, and a powerful exploration of how the things we fail to notice can shatter a family, a community, and a nation.
About the Author
Ali Benjamin is the author of the young adult novel The Thing About Jellyfish, an international bestseller and a National Book Award finalist. Her The Next Great Paulie Fink was named a top children’s book of the year by Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, the New York Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library. Her work has been published in more than twenty-five languages in more than thirty countries. Originally from the New York City area, she now lives in Massachusetts. This is her first adult novel.
“An exhilarating ride . . . hilarious . . . there are no heroes here; I got whiplash trying to figure out who I trusted and what I was rooting for, and the sensation was mesmerizing. Benjamin is like an overly chatty but skilled magician . . . a modern and energetic story about a marriage on the skids.”—The New York Times
“Borrow names and plot elements from Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome. Satirize progressive parenting and education à la Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Then light it all up with the feminist fire ignited by the Brett Kavanaugh hearings—and what do you get? A fun, timely novel that’s unexpectedly full of hope.”—People
“It is not the transposition of that well-trod narrative and its character types that compels; it is the contrast sharpened in the act. . . . Benjamin doesn’t remake Ethan Frome so much as she contends with it. The Smash-Up is an homage and a critique. . . . An astute commentary on the differences between Wharton’s time and ours.”—Los Angeles Times
“The story’s day-by-day format builds a brisk page-turning momentum. . . . Benjamin has a keen eye and ear for the revealing cultural detail, whether it’s billionaire couples critiquing their children’s school reading lists at parents’ night or someone in their 20s working some questionable side hustles in the gig economy. It’s as if she Marie Kondo’d her scenes to keep only the elements that would bring readers some joy.”—WBUR, The ARTery
“Just when you think you know where this narrative is going, Benjamin flips the script expertly. . . . In her fantastic adult debut, YA and middle grade author Benjamin (The Next Great Paulie Fink) skewers her subjects but still preserves their humanity. New York expats, middle-aged Gen-Xers, disaffected millennials, conniving school moms, exasperating children with improbable names—all get the gimlet eye in this timely, witty novel.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Ambitious . . . With satire and suspense, Benjamin handily encapsulates the incomprehension, sadness, and rage of the Trump era.”—Publishers Weekly
“A hypertopical, semisatirical, Ethan Frome–inspired portrait of a family on the edge . . . cleverly constructed . . . pack(s) an emotional punch.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Funny, withering, and devastating . . . Punching neither up nor down but to the side, Benjamin (The Thing About Jellyfish) takes aim at a contemporary attitude that would have flummoxed Edith Wharton. As one of Benjamin’s characters puts it, ‛When did we all fall so in love with our own opinions?’ ”—Shelf Awareness
“A contemporary reflection on power and sex . . . Benjamin’s immediately engaging writing captures the complicated emotions and biting humor of these bruising times and their impact on relationships.”—Booklist