‘All This Could Be Yours’ by Jami Attenberg – The Dad Was Bad

 

‘All This Could Be Yours’ by Jami Attenberg    (2019) – 298 pages

The catchphrase for ‘All This Could be Yours’ is “family dysfunction at its finest”, and I am always up for some family dysfunction in my fiction reading.

At the center of this novel is Victor Tuchman. He is a miserable human being who sometimes beats his wife and has hurt every member of his family in one way or another.

Every so often he smacked her. The arguments were stupid, trivial, about nothing, about money which they had plenty of. Nothing was ever worth violence, but she grew used to it, and in a way, it was how she knew he was still paying attention to her, because most of the time, he wasn’t around.”

The family does live in a nice house in Connecticut and all, because Victor is not a criminal low life; he is a criminal high life. We live in a time when many of the richest people are outright criminals because white collar crime perpetrated by white people is rarely punished. Victor has made his living in some forms of organized criminal activity which he never discusses with his family. Later he is beset with several sexual harassment lawsuits from a few of his former mistresses.

Anyhow very early in the novel he has a severe heart attack, and for the rest of the novel he lays dying in a hospital in New Orleans where he and his wife have moved in old age. We then meet other members of his immediate family with their own awful memories and feelings about Victor.

This is a story of severe family dysfunction, and these are best told in an oppressive claustrophobic atmosphere. ‘All This Could Be Yours’ loses its intensity when it wanders too far from this immediate family situation. Sometimes it becomes as discursive as a New Orleans travelogue.

Things to do in New Orleans. Drink, eat, drink, eat, jazz. The Mississippi. Cemeteries and ghosts. Alligators. She crossed Canal Street and the threshold of the French Quarter. Drink, eat, jazz. Ghosts.”

The novel loses its way for me when about half way through it tells the life story of daughter-in-law Twyla. Ultimately Twyla is also very much a victim of Victor Tuchman as shown in one of the weirdest scenes I have ever encountered, but her back story probably could have been left out. It is only after she meets and marries the son Gary Tuchman that her story relates at all the Tuchman family. Now they are getting divorced. The novel becomes diffuse and wandering, lacking focus.

So for me the catchphrase for ‘All This Could Be Yours’ would be changed to “family dysfunction at its middling”.

 

Grade:    B-

 

 

11 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Tony. I think I will skip this book. I really don’t like books set in New Orleans (my hometown). The books, tv programs, and films are all so inauthentic. They just can’t get it right. NOLA is a very unique place. I now live in Arizona and really don’t miss anything about the city with the exception of the food. Great review. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. Goodness me, Tony, I did not know that you had a compulsion to read about dysfunctional families LOL!
    I avoid them as much as I can…

    Like

    Reply

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