Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Book Review: 'All About The Benjamins' by Zev Good

All About The Benjamins by Zev Good

An incandescent novel

Georgia author Zev Good is destined to rise as one of the more important writers of the time, an author whose insights into family dynamics and the gender choice variations and designations so currently in focus in the media enables him to pen stories that invite understanding and enlightenment like few other authors.

In molding a story about secret or private inclinations within the context of family, too often characters can become either strident or elusive, loosing our concern and thus placing a barricade to examination of individuality. Zev has entered that arena and proves that his acceptance of all perceptions is not only possible, but imperative if life is to be a kind journey. In this excellent novel Zev introduces the Benjamin family, and the various truths of individuality not only can survive but also enhance the true meaning of family. 

Rarely has the plight of ‘coming out’ been so sensitively depicted as in the opening chapter of this book. Zev first describes the initial encounter of his character Joel, pauses, and then offers Joel’s recollection of that incident, and the quality of writing is apparent: ‘Now, thirty-four years later, Joel was ready to come out of the closet. He just wasn’t sure how to go about it. There were days where he was convinced of his purpose, and he stood in front of the bathroom mirror and rehearsed the words he wanted to say and how he wanted to say them. The next day, that certainly would vanish and he would be in emotional agony. It always looked so easy in movies and on TV, or in the tabloids when actors and singers came out: for years they were straight, they married and they divorced, and then one day they were coming out and people talked only of their courage, their strength. He couldn’t understand why he was having such difficulty with it. He was fifty-eight years old. He wasn’t getting any younger and it was time, so on one of those days where he was sure of himself, he called his daughter.’

That moment, that thought process, and the manner in which the author so deftly writes it is the portal to this outstanding book, which Zev has summarized as follows: ‘It has been less than a year since Susan Benjamin succumbed to cancer and her family has yet to come to terms with her death—and their own secrets. Her daughter Amy, reeling from a divorce, struggles to parent her teenaged son without controlling him as her own mother had done. Her son Adam, thirtysomething and gay, feels untethered in his mother’s absence and drifts through a series of unrewarding jobs and relationships even though he craves love and stability. Her husband Joel, father of Amy and Adam, is fifty-eight and about to come out for the first time as a gay man. Joel’s coming out is ultimately, what forces the family to confront uncomfortable truths about themselves and each other while they try to accept what no one could have prepared for: their father is gay and was unfaithful to their mother for the course of their thirty-eight year marriage.’ And just as deftly as he composed the opening, the final pages are equally satisfying.

Zev Good breathes life into resolution of conflicts in a manner that introduces an author of significance – a much needed adjunct to contemporary discussion. Very highly recommended for all readers.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.