Leviathan Jewish Journal at UC Santa Cruz

Jami Attenberg’s All This Could Be Yours

Written and illustrated by Mary Roche

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019, 294 pages.

Jami Attenberg is a contemporary Jewish American author who has recently gained notable recognition for her seventh novel, All This Could Be Yours. Her best-selling novel The Middlesteins (2012) featured her innate talent for capturing the complicated nature of less than perfect families. Attenberg succeeds at this again in All This Could Be Yours, which tells the story of Victor Tuchman, a decidedly terrible person. 

Tuchman, a successful albeit crooked businessman, has not done right by his family. At his deathbed, his wife and children have no choice but to—or at least attempt to—make sense of their relationship to him. The Tuchman family, aside from siblings Alex and Gary, have never been close. Victor and his wife Barbra have managed to endure decades together, much to the puzzlement of their children, who suffered and witnessed Victor’s abuse throughout their childhood. Each family member wrestles with their unique brand of grief and conflicted emotions abound. Recent divorcee Alex persistently questions Barbra about her willingness to stay locked into a dysfunctional relationship. Surprisingly, Gary’s wife Twyla seems to be the only person who is outwardly grieving for Victor; all the while, Gary remains unreachable in California even after he booked his flight home. Barbra remains pensive and somewhat passive during the final days of Victor’s life. Each character reveals their personal struggle to make sense of the powerful, yet toxic nucleus of their family.

Attenberg illustrates a rich parallel universe through well-hewn prose. The story takes place in the convivial city of New Orleans, where Attenberg currently resides. In addition to sharply distinct characters, lush descriptions of the city imbue the narrative, a backdrop that beautifully contrasts with a grieving family.All This Could Be Yours was described by Maris Kreizman of the Maris Review as “timely”. There is perhaps no better way to describe this novel, as it hones in on some unsavory cultural traits of male power and toxic masculinity. For this reason, I felt the novel spoke to a culture that is now openly grieving over and finally confronting abuses committed by powerful or entitled men, rape culture, and domestic violence. Some readers will identify more closely with these themes and others, perhaps, will better understand the seemingly passive or complicit attitude of those who have intimate ties to villains like Victor Tuchman.  

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