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The Hole We're In


The Hole We're In

George (Georgia) Pomeroy's husband Roger decides he will return
to school for his graduate degree, since their son Vincent has
graduated from college and daughter Helen is getting married,
leaving only 10-year-old Patsy at home. This decision means he is
leaving his decent-paying job as an assistant principal at a
Seventh Day Adventist school, which essentially places the burden
of supporting the family on George. The family's money is tight,
with their financial picture worsening as they struggle to pay for
living expenses, Helen's wedding and medical costs. As time goes
on, George maxes out her own credit cards. Then she applies for,
receives and uses credit cards made out in Vincent's name.

The parents’ economic problems are reflected in their
children's lives. Vincent is also struggling financially. As a
film school graduate student, he needs at least $5,000 to produce
his low-budget student film. However, when he applies for a student
loan, he is denied because of a delinquent credit card --- one he
denies having. When Vincent discovers who is stealing his identity,
he tries to contact his mother, but she evades him.

Meanwhile, Helen has suffered snowballing debt since the day she
registered for college, when she received her first credit card.
Today, she owes $19,000 despite her career as a speech therapist.
In less than two hours, she manages to spend $1,500 on Christmas
gifts. The whole point of these presents is that they look
expensive; she doesn’t care if the recipients like them or
not. She regards her patients, who simply make her feel impatient,
with the same lack of emotion. When Helen looks at Elliott, her
fiancé, she feels "nothing…like a

Roger, oblivious to his family's financial struggles, is dazzled
by Carolyn Murray, his striking college adviser. Carolyn sets up a
meeting with Roger to discuss his dissertation proposal, which
seems to intrigue her. In fact, she is so fascinated by the subject
that she asks him to co-author a book about it with her. His mind
races as he fantasizes about what being a bestselling author could
mean to his life. Unfortunately, the immediate consequence is that
he must give up his TA positions in order to coordinate the book
project with Carolyn, which means he is only earning $5,000 instead
of the $15,000 he would have made. And, while he is quick to admit
that Carolyn's type of handsomeness has never truly attracted
him,  their relationship is soon more complicated than he ever
could have predicted.

George is stressed and desperate. She struggles to pay for
Helen's expensive wedding, including a disastrous paint job on
their home, where the ceremony is to be held. She must refuse a
promotion from her temp job because the permanent position would
mean less pay. When her friend asks what her life's dream might be,
all she can conjure is the fantasy of not owing money to anyone. As
their situation worsens, George takes action that changes young
Patsy's future.

Gabrielle Zevin’s THE HOLE WE'RE IN is a gut-clenching
illustration of a family spiraling down into a morass of debt. Told
from the point of view of the different family members, their
stories reveal an emptiness due to a kind of chilling emotional
disconnect. Yet, whether readers are grateful not to be part of the
Pomeroy family or identify uncomfortably with their predicament, we
cannot help but empathize with them --- which makes for quite the
gripping read.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon ( on January 22, 2011

The Hole We're In
by Gabrielle Zevin

  • Publication Date: March 10, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat
  • ISBN-10: 0802119239
  • ISBN-13: 9780802119230