It’s 1977. Jacob Green, a Jewish kid from suburban New Jersey, sits on the stairs during his family’s housewarming party, waiting for his father, Abram — charming host, everyone’s best friend, and amateur emcee — to introduce him to the crowd. Housewarming parties, Annie Hall parties, and bar mitzvah parties punctuate Jacob’s childhood and require command performances by all the Green family members.
But when the confetti settles and the drapes are drawn, the affable Abram Green becomes an egotistical tyrant whose emotional rages rupture the lives of his family. Jacob doesn’t mean to disappoint his father, but he can’t help thinking the most unthinkable (and very funny) thoughts about public-school humiliation, Hebrew-school disinclination, and in-home sex education (with the live-in nanny!).
If only his mother hadn’t started college at thirty-six (and fallen for her psychology professor). If only he were more like his rebellious older brother (suspended from Hebrew school for drawing the rabbi in a threesome with a lobster and a pig). If only Jacob could confront his overbearing father and tell him he doesn’t want to sing in synagogue, attend est classes, write the perfect thank-you note, or even live in the same house with Abram Green. But, of course, he can’t. That would be unthinkable.
This self-assured, comic, yet piercing first novel deftly captures the struggle of an imperfect boy trying to become a suitable son.