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The Hole We're In Paperback – March 10, 2010

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The Hole We're In + Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac + All These Things I've Done
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; First Edition edition (March 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119230
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Zevin (YA novel Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, etc.) delivers in her blazing second adult novel a Corrections for our recessionary times. While Roger Pomeroy spins his middle-aged wheels in graduate school, his wife, George, supports the family mainly via an ever larger number of credit cards opened in her recent college grad son Vinnie's name. Meanwhile, daughter Helen insists on an expensive wedding, and youngest daughter Patsy gets pregnant and is transferred to a religious school out of state. Struggling to stay afloat, Roger and George deplete Patsy's college fund, and Patsy in turn enlists in the army for the tuition benefits. She's sent to Iraq and comes back injured and suffering from PTSD. Roger, in a not-quite-convincing turn, becomes an ultra-conservative Christian pastor, and long-suffering George goes off the deep end. Zevin mixes sharp humor with moments of grace as she gives readers terrific insights into the problems of adult children removing themselves from the influence of parents, and establishes herself as an astute chronicler of the way we spend now. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Zevin is the author of the adult novel Margarettown (2005) and two YA novels (Elsewhere, 2005, and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, 2007). Here she jettisons the fantasy element that has been a hallmark of her work for a sharp, funny, and timely look at a debt-ridden, God-fearing American family. When Evangelical Christian Roger uproots his family to Texas to pursue a PhD, his hapless wife, Georgia, attempting to support the family on a temp’s salary, heedlessly throws unopened bills in a kitchen drawer. When their financial house of cards finally falls, it is the youngest daughter, feisty Patsy, who pays the price; forced to enroll in the army in order to pay for college, she ends up being shipped off to Iraq. Zevin skewers a host of social issues from religious zealotry to the consequences of war to the entitlement mind-set of average Americans. What makes her book more than just a satire, though, is the deft way she thoroughly humanizes her characters. Readers will relate to and be moved by a beleaguered family’s attempts to climb out of debt and dysfunction. --Joanne Wilkinson

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Customer Reviews

I am being generous to give it 2 stars!
Sue Kolasinski
I disliked the parents so much that I almost stopped reading 40 pages into the book, and then it became like a train wreck where you just can not simply look away.
I am a voracious reader, but just found this novel to be "OK".
Betty Freeman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Erin D. Howerton on February 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
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.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. Brown on February 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
After I finished The Hole We're In early one morning before leaving for the day, I left it for my husband with the note "I really liked this and I think you will too." When I got home at 5:30 that afternoon he was almost done with it. This is a serious and literary novel that is also a page-turner. The blurb on the cover describes it as "The Corrections for our recessionary times" to which I would add "but not as bloated and pretentious, and with characters you will care about and not want to strangle." The women in the Pomeroy family are so well done and I was really rooting for Patsy through all the stages of her story. Ms. Zevin shows how patterns repeat in families despite our efforts to be nothing like our parents. I hope we'll see more from her.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Stahl on April 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
THWI is a quick read. It moves quickly, covers a lot of ground in the lifespan of a family and its members. The writing is spare, but punchy--not overly verbose, but you aren't left hanging. The story is a tragic comedy and revolves around a family that self-destructs collectively and individually. So many interesting themes here - how well-meaning parents go wrong, the impact of parents on their children, how each of us is no better than any of us, how we judge others more harshly than ourselves...I could list about 20 more.

This is terrific storytelling and worth the read. It's both contemporary and classic and each character feels very true. Highly recommended--give it a try.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William Capodanno VINE VOICE on July 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this novel on a whim and did not have much in the way of expectations. Initially, I expected somewhat of a light read about a family drowning in debt in 21st century America. Very quickly, I realized this book had a lot more depth and substance to it. Despite its title, "The Hole We're In" tackles the topics of increasing easy credit fueled household debt, the Iraq war, marriage infidelity and evangelicism and the polarization of religious and secular society in America.

Given the surface area of topics covered, the results could have been fairly trite and conventional. However, Zevin shows quite a bit of polish in devloping characters, warts and all, that have substance and believability. One quibble I have with the book is that Zevin could have spent more time on Vinnie and Helen, two of the three Pomeroy children. Zevin carefully pivots the story primarily to Patsy, the youngest of the three children for most of the last half of the book. While this choice doesn't disappoint, I don't believe the extra pages would have compromised the flow and focus of the novel.

All in all, Zevin's "The Hole We're In" is a strong novel that paints a vivid and realistic picture of an American family in the late 1990's and first decade of the 21st century.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Chamberlain on August 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
Debt and fundamentalist Christianity achieve a surprising concord in this novel, and it's easy to see how the two attitudes--"God will provide" and "I'll worry about it later"--coincide, and why the credit crisis has hit god-fearin' America so hard. But more than that, Zevin creates a great blend of likable and thoroughly unlikable characters here, even mixing these qualities from time to time in the same person, i.e. the mother of the Pomeroy family, Georgia, whose actions are both wicked and sympathetic at once. The only truly unadulterated evil is the father, Roger, with whom Zevin nonetheless avoids caricature. This is a difficult balance to strike, and she's to be commended for it.

I really have only one criticism, and while it's picky, it was distracting. [SLIGHT SPOILER]

Students' credit isn't checked to get federal Stafford Direct loans, for the simple reason that most 18-year-olds applying to college either don't have a credit history or have such a short one that it isn't predictive. Parents, if they applied for the PLUS-loan version to pick up part of the bill, would need good credit, but even if they didn't have it, the student can then qualify for a larger Direct loan in her own name. So the bit about Patsy going into the Army Reserves to get her tuition paid after her mother ruins her credit doesn't make a lot of sense. By the end, Zevin has resolved it somewhat in the revelation that one of Patsy's proudest achievements is not owing anything to anyone (unlike her perpetually indebted parents), but it's still one of those things that confounds the verisimilitude of the novel, however briefly.

I loved the final line of the novel, which was the perfect summary of everything that came before it. Even if the book hadn't been mesmerizing, which it was, it's almost worth reading in and of itself just to get there.
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