Published: 10 January 2017
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
A satirical novel about a mother whose life spirals out of control when she’s forced to rethink her bleeding heart liberal ideals
For idealistic forty-something Karen Kessler, it isn’t enough that she works full-time in the non-profit sector, aiding an organization that helps hungry children from disadvantaged homes. She’s also determined to live her personal life in accordance with her ideals. This means sending her daughter, Ruby, to an integrated public school in their Brooklyn neighborhood.
But when a troubled student from a nearby housing project begins bullying children in Ruby’s class, the distant social and economic issues Karen has always claimed to care about so passionately feel uncomfortably close to home. As the situation at school escalates, Karen can’t help but wonder whether her do-gooder husband takes himself and his causes more seriously than her work and Ruby’s wellbeing.
A daring, discussable satire about gentrification and liberal hypocrisy, and a candid take on rich and poor, white and black, CLASS is also a smartly written story that reveals how life as we live it–not as we like to imagine it–often unfolds in gray areas.
Rating: 3 Stars
I requested this novel back in November 2016, when the world felt like it was falling in on my head. The issues brought up by this novel neither started nor ended around this time period, but the awareness about such issues seems to have increased ever since certain people moved into certain historical homes in Washington D.C.
This novel, a satire of social politics, really seems to grasp the liberal view. Karen, the main character, is what I consider a typical PTA mom: one who is so wrapped up in her ideals that she’s become them. She is the picture of these ideals, living them to the letter every day without fail.
Karen is an over-exaggerated version of a liberal woman: sending her daughter to a poorly ranked school so that Ruby (her daughter) can integrate with children of various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds; buys overpriced organic locally sourced food; worries about climate change. Not that these are things that one can do if they like, but take them done at a reasonable level and crank that up a notch.
Class has been widely recommended as a book club book and I certainly see why. In addition to characters that are certain to elicit quite a few emotions, the issues that are brought up will be sure to provoke discussion. There are the matters of Karen’s privilege, her views of diversity and what that means to her family, etc. I’d expect things to get heated, not only due to talking about Karen and her actions when Ruby, her daughter, starts to encounter trouble at school, when Karen herself finds her views at odds with the actual world around her, but because it might encourage people to consider their own views.
The writing was good. It was tough to read at times, but I put that down to it being a good characterization of insufferable people than bad writing.
I’d recommend picking this book up for a book club night, bring a good drink, and lots of popcorn. The comments are sure to fly.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.