Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Everybody Rise

Title:  Everybody Rise
Author:  Stephanie Clifford
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2015. 384 pages.
ISBN:  1250077176 / 978-1250077172

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Shelf Awareness.

Opening Sentence:  "Your pearl earrings are rather worn down."

Favorite Quote:  "She had been waiting, she realized. Always waiting ... waiting for her life to be replaced by some other ... waiting for that she felt ought to be hers ... waiting to be recognized and accepted in the social scene ... waiting for some sign about what her life's goal ought to be ... Maybe it didn't work like that. Maybe you had to change things step by step."

What would you do to fit in and to belong to the "right" group? What wouldn't you do? How far would you go? What if, no matter what you do, you don't seem to belong?

That is where Evelyn Beegan is. She has always been on the outskirts of the Old Money crowd. An only child raised in an upper middle class home, Evelyn has always disdained her mother's focus on the looks and behavior needs to belong to a certain set. Evelyn went to the "right" prep school, and her mother always encouraged her to make the "right" friends. Even now, her mother's focus is on Evelyn finding the "right" husband.

Now out of college, Evelyn is making her mark on New York City, or at least trying to. She has landed a job at People Like Us, an elite, invite-only social networking site. Her job is to sign up the "right" people to give the site credibility among the elite.

This job pulls Evelyn right back into the world of debutante balls, weekends in Adirondacks, summer homes, and lavish parties. At first, it's the job. Then, Evelyn's desire to fit in and to belong grows stronger ... and stronger .... and stronger. It pulls her into a web of lies, deceit, betrayal, and debt that spirals out of control. Entwined in Evelyn's need is the fact that a family scandal threatens to push the Beegan's beyond any hope of ever belonging to this social circle.

Evelyn's descent into her almost obsession with being "in" is clearly depicted step by step in the book. For this reason, she is not a particularly likable character for most of the book. For most of the book, I cringe at her decisions and want to talk some sense into her. As a reader, the destructive nature of her path is so clear that it seems amazing that she does not see it herself. I don't find myself cheering for her, but I do feel sad for her. Everyone has felt that need to belong and to fit in in their lives. So, her emotions are understandable even while her actions are despicable.

The book is primarily a character study with an escalating repetition of social situations. Evelyn tries "to pass as one of them." She meets with some success. Evelyn goes further and further to fit in, living beyond her means and even betraying her true friends. Evelyn seems to be moving up step by step on the social ladder, one step closer to "making it." Repeat in a bigger social arena. Repeat in ever grander social situations. However, is she really or is she just one mistake away from being on the outside again? Does it truly matter? Is this truly what she wants?

The focus on character rather than plot makes the book a rather slow read. This book also seems a very familiar read as if I have read the story before. The concept of old money and a newcomer wanting to fit in is certainly not a new one. This book does not really bring anything unexpected to that theme. The book proceeds as I expect and ends as I expect.

Two interesting side notes on this book. First, the title is a reference to the chorus from a Stephen Sondheim song titled "The Ladies Who Lunch." Second, movie rights for this book have already been sold. Overall, the book is an okay story but not the next Edith Wharton that it's being publicized as.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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