Reviewed by Garret Rose

Soloman Kugel is the epitome of the midlife crisis. The problem is, he was groomed and doomed this way from the time he was a toddler in this endearing and wonderfully tragic novel, Hope: A Tragedy, by Shalom Auslander. Filled with sharp wit and deep-thinking logic, this novel presents an alternative to optimism that raises the question: Is hope a predictor for failure?

After leaving the city for the quiet life, Soloman thinks that he is going insane. After several sleepless nights, he is convinced that he is hearing a tap, tap, tapping noise coming from the attic. After he decides to investigate, he discovers an unwanted guest. Although he wishes that all he had found were mice, he cannot kick the unwanted guest out. She is a critical piece of world history, long presumed to be dead. As he decides to give in to her needs and wants, Kugel finds himself becoming more distanced from his wife Bree, his son Jonah, and his mother, a self-proclaimed Holocaust survivor (although she was in Brooklyn during the Holocaust). As he tries to deal with his new reality, he is also worried about the fact that he might lose his house, either by backed payments or by an unknown arsonist terrorizing the area. Soloman Kugel becomes a tragedy in and of himself.

As his world comes crashing down, Kugel meets with his over-priced psychologist Dr. Jove, who believes that to be an optimist means that there is always false hope. It is better to not have hope for the sake of never being let down. As the story unravels, Kugel comes to face this fact and tries to live a life of direct expectations.

Auslander gives the reader a comedy, tragedy, and philosophy lesson, all in one in his debut novel. You will laugh (out loud), you will cringe, you will cry, and most importantly, you will think; you will think about your positions in many ways. This is an enjoyable novel, riddled with humor and heartbreak and a novel that will leave you wanting more offerings from Auslander in the near future. A great way to start the new year!!!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Garret loves literature! He is creating the Vernal Journal for his students as well as anyone else that is interested in literature – be it fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, or even miscellaneous! Garret’s goal is to share, review and make connections to the world and each other.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Riverhead. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.