Every day newspaper articles chronicle families battered by the recession, circling the drain in unemployment and debt or scraping by with minimum-wage jobs. But no novel has truly captured that struggle until now.
In Gabrielle Zevin's The Hole We're In, Roger Pomeroy and his wife, George, finance their lives however they can during the lean years when he returns to school. First to go are daughter Patsy's college fund and daughter Helen's wedding savings. Then George, desperately trying to hold things together, opens credit cards in the name of their son, Vincent, who has unblemished credit (at least until his parents begin defaulting on their bills). But matters come to a head with Vincent (who mails his parents a credit-card statement with a note that says ''Your latest. I've canceled this one, too''), and the pastor at their conservative church confronts them over their failure to tithe, so the couple must finally face the hole they're in. Roger, attempting to figure out how much they owe, finds "unopened bills in the bill drawer, in shopping bags in the garage, in shoeboxes in George's closet, in a plastic bin under the guest bathroom sink, everywhere, just everywhere."
There's little in the way of plot here. The novel's true subject is how a once-loving family reacts when times get bad. For Roger, that means taking refuge in his religion, even when it asks him to excommunicate his own children. For George, it means slipping into years-long depression. And all five Pomeroys flawed, devoted, cranky, impetuous, utterly relatable come blazingly alive on the page. A–