Book Review: ‘Everything’s Fine,’ by Cecilia Rabess

all is wellby Cecilia Laves

Will love conquer all? Is it still the case? Have you ever done it? These are the questions Cecilia Laves asks in her nimble and insightful debut, Everything’s Fine. The novel’s protagonist, Jess, is a young black college freshman at the start of the book, in her first year as an analyst at Goldman Sachs. “The whole building smells of money,” writes Laves, but Jess is no fish out of water. Her entire young adult life has been defined by the abundance of those around her.

Her awakening to this reality was rude, but motivating, as detailed on the first page of the book. Jess was raised by a single father in Nebraska, where she led a relatively normal middle-class life. She couldn’t afford her first feminist magazine job offer. Her mathematics degree pointed her in two directions. One is in academia, living in debt, and hers is in the financial industry and earning big salaries. She chose finance.

At Goldman Sachs, politically liberal Jess reunites with former classmate Josh, a white conservative analyst (although he claims to be “moderate”), whom he dislikes. Until. Their friendship, which was scratchy at first, warms as the first half of the novel progresses. By the time they finally got together, I found myself exulting cautiously. Laveth has a knack for chemistry, and the chemistry between Jess and Josh is almost obvious. Their final union is, well, the climax.

In most other love stories, this is when the rift appears. But Josh and Jess’ relationship showed a deep crater from the start. Josh is a Wall Street Republican, financially conservative, theoretically socially liberal, but fixated on an abstract view of the world and a strong believer in his own rationality. Therefore, it means that society cannot (or does not want to) see anything. The perspective of others, including Jess. Jess faces this fundamental inconsistency in their worldviews time and time again, but as Josh’s unwavering confidence translates into effortless charisma, she puts everything on the rug to deal with later. sweep down. He is funny, patient, generous, smart and loving. He definitely cherishes Jess. What’s more questionable is whether he really sees and understands Jess.

As Jess and Josh’s relationship deepens and cracks, so does her career. As she gains and loses her job, she constantly tries to balance her goal of gaining wealth and stability with her desire to respect her truth and ethics. She never told her beloved father about this, believing that her life was successful and smooth sailing, not difficult, and that she was definitely not a white boyfriend. to get it.

The novel comes to a close with the challenges in Jess and Josh’s relationship becoming too much to ignore as we head into the 2016 election. Words, symbols, and events that some, like Jess, could turn a blind eye to during the Obama era, cannot be ignored when Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton face off. Finally, after a heated argument about the “Make America Great Again” hat, Josh says to Jess: …you don’t have a problem with the system, you just have a problem with your position in it. “

The ending of Everything’s Fine is one of the best I’ve read in years. It asks whether our choices stop and end on our own. Is it ethical to date someone who goes against everything you believe? Is it right to work in an industry profiting from a broken system? Who do we owe what? Is it? For Josh, the answer is clear. “Jess, you don’t owe anyone,” he says to her as she grapples with the agonizing thought that her assertive father will be sorely disappointed in her. “You have no special obligation to help.”

does she? Raves doesn’t have an easy answer.

Angela Rushbrook is an author whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Slate, Vice and The Times.

all is well | Cecilia Laves 326 Pages | Simon & Schuster | $27.99

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