There is a lot in here about language, Jewishness, literacy, Hollywood, religion, racism, snobbishness, insincerity, elitism, core truth, flock mentality, standing tall for what one knows to be true.
When Howard and Ann’s 17-year-old son goes to Israel for two weeks of Senior year Spring break he learns something about Jewishness. He is recruited by local hard-core types for further education about his Jewish heritage, but is practically kicked out the door when they learn that it is his father and not his mother who is Jewish. Thus they consider him not only not Jewish, but unclean. Shalom!
Howard is a successful Hollywood executive. Shocked by his son’s treatment in Israel, he experiences a major mid-life crisis in which his early New York Jewish upbringing tugs heavily on his soul.
His wife, Ann, an English lit Phd, is the daughter of a British diplomat. One day she is asked to put together a reading list for a friend and that request blossoms into a major, ever-metastasizing enterprise. No longer merely an appendage to her famous spouse, Ann, through her knowledge of literature, her insight into poetry, and her ability to communicate essential meanings to the Hollywood crowd, has carved out a glittering domain of her own, complete with media coverage and buzz.
You would need a dump truck to manage the weight of real names dropped here, but that is part of the point. Hollywood is connectedness, if not of a religious or necessarily ethnic sort. Well, maybe it is a bit religious, based, as so much of it is, on magical thinking, strings of untruths and power relationships.
The writing is also clearly informed by a knowledge of the inner workings of literature that escaped my readings of the cited works, (well, not all of them) and there are many cited works. Ok, sometimes it made me feel stupid. How do people who live at a very high intellectual level, people who can drop quotes from literature of all sorts into average conversation, people who think critically about major life themes, live? How do they deal with the traumas that affect their lives as they affect the lives of the less gifted, the less wealthy?
Ann is the centerpiece in this stimulating, thought-provoking tale. It is she who must hold the family together, or try anyway, when forces beyond her control interfere and try to wrest her family apart. She is a strong, intelligent, thoughtful woman, confident in her ideas and comfortable in her skin. She is admirable for how she copes with the trials she must endure and brave for speaking out as she does, knowing that it will forever alter her world.
I found the first fifty pages or so a bit slow, but past that I was riveted. It is not merely that much of the subject matter hits very close to home personally, but that gives it a bit more oomph. There is no need for extra. You or Someone Like You has all the oomph any serious reader could ask for. I imagine Burr will take some shots for the views he expresses in this book. Hopefully those attacks will not muddy the fact that this is an exceptional work of fiction.