‘The Unfolding’ by A.M. Homes

2022, 396 p.

This book is set in a very specific timeframe: from Wednesday 5th November 2008 to Tuesday 20th January 2009. Ring a bell? Probably not. I’ll help you out. It’s the time between the election night that saw Barak Obama elected as President of United States, and the day of his inauguration the following year.

If you’ve ever been to an election-night function as a volunteer, you’ll recognize the awful, chin-trembling bleakness of defeat when the balloons, the music, the party pies all of a sudden take on a bilious yellow hue. For white, racist, life-long Republicans that election night -more than any other before it- must have seemed like the world was shifting on its axis. And so we meet Hitchens, nick-named “The Big Guy” who decides that something must be done. He calls on his mates, fellow-Republicans, entrepreneurs, a crackpot historian, a tax lawyer etc, all rich, entitled, puffed up with their delusions that they can change history if they get the right people onside and pull a few strings. And so they launch into a series of sleazy meetings with ‘fixers’ and quasi-military figures where men talk in catch-phrases and allusions, plotting to somehow over-turn Obama’s election, to set the world right again. If we hadn’t seen Rudy Giuliani sweating away in the All-Seasons Garden Supply car-park, or January 6th, this would just seem like farce. Not any more: as the author of this book, published in 2022, knows only too well.

While all this is going on, the Big Guy has his own problems at home. His wife Charlotte is an alcoholic who finally seeks help for her addiction; his daughter Meghan is at boarding school and starting to question her own views on life and politics, after joining the family jaunt to the polling booth to vote for John McCain. The family has its own secrets and it is forced to face up to them, while Big Guy is escaping reality through his ham-fisted political manipulations to try to go back to the good old days.

This book read very much like a play, with a heavy reliance on dialogue. There are no chapters, but instead a series of ‘scenes’, each identified by date and location. There are probably a lot of political references and in-jokes that escaped me, and I felt my Australianness keenly while reading the book. What an unsavoury group of people. How depressing that they’re still here.

My rating: 6/10

Sourced from: Yarra Plenty Regional Library

Read because: I heard the author on a BBC Start the Week podcast (see my response to the podcast here). This podcast has a lot to answer for.

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