Judith D Collins
Publisher: Little Brown & Co.
Publication Date: 1/10/2017
My Rating: 4 Stars 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 Kipple, 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,
A special thank you to Little Brown & Co, Goodreads Giveaway, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Lucinda Rosenfeld's CLASS features New York, Karen Kipple as she struggles to balance the demands of motherhood and career, always convinced that she was shortchanging one or the other. Married for ten years and for the last five Karen had been the director of development for a small non-profit devoted to tackling childhood hunger in the US. For the past two years, she had been trying to write an oped which she hoped one day to publish in a major newspaper, about the relationship between nutrition and school readiness. Matt, her husband is also a career activist in the nonprofit sector and she is always worried about Ruby, her eight-year-old daughter’s education. She encourages her former lawyer husband to quit his job and work with low-income people to assist their housing needs. Karen had enrolled her daughter at Betts, aware that it lacked the reputation for academic excellence of other schools nearby, but Ruby would be exposed to children who were less privileged than herself. Even though the white population of the school hovered around 25%. Being in the minority in what she had chosen. However, was he sacrificing her education? Diversity or inferior education? She had always aspired to a life of making a difference and helping those less fortunate than herself. She tried to live in accordance with the politics and principals, which of course included the notion that public education was a force for good and that without racially and economically integrated school, an equal opportunity couldn’t exist. Ruby was smart and a voracious reading and life should be good. Karen, an advocate for non-food additives and chemicals as well as diversity. She has a nice condo, hubby, and daughter, Karen’s life seemed to be good in New York; however, she is unhappy. “Karen’s complex and contradictory relationship to eating had also grown more in the last few years, along with weight, teeth, and marriage—somehow become a dividing line between the social classes with the Earth Day — esque ideals of the 1960s having acquired snob appeal, and the well-off and well-educated increasingly buying “natural” and “fresh” and casting aspersions on those who didn’t.” Then when a classmate of Ruby’s transfers out of Betts to a more privileged school of white students, all of Karen’s earlier thoughts and commitments, quickly vanished. Her husband wants a divorce because she enrolled Ruby in a new school without telling him. Following the lead, she moves Ruby and then begins an affair with a rich guy, Clay, among other things. More lies. Her emotions are all over the board. Karen is torn between social classes, seeing the poor living in shelters and the rich and their superficial ways. Hypocrisy. Guilt. She was capable of paying hundreds of dollars for an espresso machine from Italy, Karen had a deeply ingrained cheap streak as well, which caused her to do things like go to the library and photocopy the crossword puzzle from the Sunday paper rather than pay for a subscription. Rosenfeld kicks butt and puts it all out there. With keen insights, raw honesty, a brutal portrayal ---the truth of our unequal society in urban America. With humor and highly-charged topics, the author hits the bull's eye, with CLASS. I especially enjoyed the wide range of topics from privilege, class, identity, entitlement, education, politics, domestic, marriage, social economics, philanthropy—to ethical dilemmas, the author does not miss a beat in this delightful satire. A tale of one woman’s struggle between the madness of liberal and reality. The lesson liberals need to learn is that despite their arrogance, they do not have the power to alter reality. From liberals to progressive—is equality among human race the exception, and inequality the norm? Much to like here whether you are a modern-day urban parent, grandparent, or single. Smart, witty, engaging, absorbing, and thought-provoking! The hardcover was stunning with a perfect fitting cover. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. Review Links:
"Lucinda Rosenfeld's deliciously smart and original new novel, CLASS, had me riveted from page one. Karen Kipple's ethical dilemmas will be familiar to any urbanite with a conscience. Rosenfeld has pulled off something rare-she has shown it's possible to write a fun and juicy-yet also sincere-book about liberal guilt and social hypocrisy."―Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
"I haven't liked being in a conflicted, bizarre, earnest, and tormented character's head this much since the time I spent with Patty Berglund in Jonathan Franzen's Freedom... CLASS is so good!!!"―Wednesday Martin, author of Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir
"With CLASS, Lucinda Rosenfeld has written a spot-on satire of the 'new' Brooklynites as they hit the parenting phase. Her Karen Kipple is a modern-day mom driven slightly mad by the conflict between her ideals and the reality subverting them. Over anxious and underappreciated, she still strives to do the right thing, and, like most of us, doesn't always succeed. Like its protagonist, this is a smart book that also knows how to have a little fun."―Eddie Joyce, author of Small Mercies
"CLASS is a brilliant depiction of the role of race and class in America seen through the lens of its public schools. This novel is brave, funny, and persuasive, and had me wincing like crazy with recognition. Lucinda Rosenfeld hits all the right notes."―Bliss Broyard, author of One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life-A Story of Race and Family Secrets
"This take-no-prisoners satire puts politically correct urbanites in their place for real.... Grimly hilarious.... Right on, Rosenfeld."―Kirkus Reviews
"The story is uncomfortable and excellently handled by Rosenfeld; it invites questions about faithfulness and philanthropy, one's obligation to those less fortunate, and what it means to be middle-class in an unequal society."―Publishers Weekly
"Karen is a flawed and unlikable character, to be sure, but a certain sector of readers will identify with her-cringing all the while. Rosenfeld's sharp and searing look at race and class in urban America will make quite an impression on readers and will become an excellent book discussion selection. It will make readers uncomfortable, but for all the right reasons."―Rebecca Vnuk, Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of the novels The Pretty One, What She Saw..., Why She Went Home, and I'm So Happy For You. Her fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Slate, the Wall Street Journal, oprah.com, and other publications.
She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two daughters. Read More