Saturday, June 18, 2016

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

What They Say.....It's 2006 in the Manhattan of the young and glamorous. Money and class are colliding in a city that is about to go over a financial precipice and take much of the country with it. At 26, bright, funny and socially anxious Evelyn Beegan is determined to carve her own path in life and free herself from the influence of her social-climbing mother, who propelled her through prep school and onto the Upper East Side. Evelyn has long felt like an outsider to her privileged peers, but when she gets a job at a social network aimed at the elite, she's forced to embrace them.

Recruiting new members for the site, Evelyn steps into a promised land of Adirondack camps, Newport cottages and Southampton clubs thick with socialites and Wall Streeters. Despite herself, Evelyn finds the lure of belonging intoxicating, and starts trying to pass as old money herself. When her father, a crusading class-action lawyer, is indicted for bribery, Evelyn must contend with her own family's downfall as she keeps up appearances in her new life, grasping with increasing desperation as the ground underneath her begins to give way.

Bracing, hilarious and often poignant, Stephanie Clifford's debut offers a thoroughly modern take on classic American themes - money, ambition, family, friendship - and on the universal longing to fit in.

What I Say....This book was a total enigma to me.  It started out very slow.  Like so slow, that I finally looked it up on Goodreads to see what the reviews looked like.  A few people said it started off slow but picked up in the middle.  So I dug back in to see if it was true.

I think part of the setup was a little confusing.  Evelyn has a malpractice type lawyer for a father, which causes some class shame for her social climbing mother.  It's never made very clear how much money Evelyn comes from.  She graduated from a private prep school and her close friends appear to be old money wealthy, but Evelyn doesn't seem to care or be interested in being part of that scene.

Evelyn ends up taking a job at a start up company that is trying to create an exclusive Facebook type site for the extremely wealthy.  She has a few friends from her prep school days and they don't seem very interested in being part of the "elite" that she is recruiting, but they play along to support her.

I think one of the things that was confusing is that Evelyn didn't appear very interested in the career she was pursuing  until she becomes friends with Camilla, a very wealthy socialite who Evelyn is intent on signing up for her website.  As Evelyn is drawn into Camilla's world, she begins to believe she is on Camilla's level, telling lies about her family's background, making up a debutante ball that never happened.  

In the middle of this, Evelyn's father is indicted for witness bribery and her mother is becoming increasingly angry with the state of her life and Evelyn is now finding herself unable to keep up with her bills - who would give this girl an American Express with a $65k limit?  Her whole life is imploding and she goes into an almost clinical state of denial.

I don't want to spoil the story for anyone on what Evelyn does to fall from grace, but it's all self-inflicted as her panic to escape her situation grows.  It's pretty horrific and I actually didn't feel bad for her because what she did was really, really awful.  

This books description called it hilarious, but there was never a time when I laughed or felt amusement.  I think perhaps it was marketed incorrectly, because it actually was a really sad book.  But I do agree that you should stick with it because it was definitely worth reading - not to be envious of the class distinctions, or to be amused, but to see how having such a complete lack of self-worth can completely derail a life.

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