“All About the Benjamins” by Zev Good— A Modern Family Beautifully Depicted

Good, Zev. “All About The Benjamins”, Independently Published, 2019.

A Modern Family Beautifully Depicted

Amos Lassen

Susan Benjamin died a year ago from cancer and her family still has not been able to deal with her death. As they try, family secrets begin to emerge. Amy, her daughter, is dealing with divorce and struggling to raise her teenaged son yet she does not want to be controlling like her own mother had been. Susan’s son, Adam, is his thirties and gay and moving through a series of unrewarding jobs and relationships which are counter to the love and stability he seeks.

Joel, Susan’s husband and father of Amy and Adam, is fifty-eight and  is about to come out as a gay man. This is the focus of the novel and this is what makes the Benjamins face the truths about themselves and the family—- Joel, their father, is gay and was unfaithful to their mother through thirty-eight years of marriage. In “All About the Benjamins”, writer Zev Good gives us a darkly comic, yet tender story about family and identity.

Zev Good offers a nuanced, tender, and often darkly comic view into loss, identity, and the unbreakable bonds of family. I am stunned by the beauty of this book both plot and prose wise. Good knows family dynamics and shares them along with nuance and enlightenment in this wonderful read.

Most families have secrets but few know how to write about them in ways that pull us in. We often relegate these secret holders to the margins and if their secret is not instrumental to the plot, we forget about them. Here the secret takes center stage and everyone feels its results. Instead of remining secrets, they become ways of survival that explain the nature of family.

As one who has experienced it, I can tell you that coming-out is both a terrifying and freeing experience. Good relates Joel’s coming-out and it brought tears to my eyes as I read. First, we read of Joel’s memory of when he realized his sexuality and how it took him thirty-plus years to come-out. He had no idea how to do so; he would spend time rehearsing what he would say and then not to do so and become despondent. Others had successfully done so— Joel couldn’t understand why he was having such a hard time with it. At fifty-eight years old, he was not getting any younger and it was time. When he finally felt sure of himself, he called Amy.

The characters are beautifully drawn with real personalities and the detail of the plot is brilliant as is the prose. This is an honest portrayal of a modern family with all of its complex relationships and intricacies. We read of  successes, how the family members see and feel about each other each other and what holds them together. We are with them as they deal with their new reality and as they come together after tragedy and a new surprise. Conflicts are resolved beautifully and Zev Good has a new fan. I am looking forward to reading his book of short stories and anxiously await anything new he writes.

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