Marie’s Reading: “All This Could Be Yours” by Jami Attenberg

AttenbergVictor, the nasty old patriarch of the Tuchman clan, is on his deathbed in a New Orleans hospital.  His wife and children all try to make peace with their relationships in the face of his coming death.

The action of the story takes place over a day and a half after Victor collapses.  His wife Barbra reflects on her past and marriage as she walks the hospital hallways.  Alexa, his daughter, is determined to figure out what sort of criminal mischief her father was up to all her life, because she’s convinced there was a lot, and why on earth her mother stayed with him.  Her brother Gary is in L.A., attempting to get his career back on track, and can’t quite get up the gumption to make his way to his family.  Twyla, Gary’s wife, is home in New Orleans, also grappling with her relationship to the Tuchman family.

Other characters slip in and out of the narrative as well, including ferry operators, waiters, and sales clerks.  Each one has their own history and interior life, but, as with the primary characters, none of them ever learn one another’s stories.  New Orleans on a crushingly hot day and night makes for a great oppressive backdrop to the story.

Attenberg doesn’t write about particularly nice or great people, but she sure writes intriguing and believable people.  And she’s just so observant and insightful and hilarious.  All This Could Be Yours is an uncomfortably good look at how one toxic, abusive person affects the lives of everyone around them, as well as how rare it is to actually know another person’s story and history.

If you enjoy character-driven stories about dysfunctional families that are funny and engaging all the same, you should take a look!

–Marie

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