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The Pessimists

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From Center for Fiction First Novel Prize finalist Bethany Ball comes a biting and darkly funny new novel that follows a set of privileged, jaded Connecticut suburbanites whose cozy, seemingly picture-perfect, lives begin to unravel amid shocking turns of fate and revelations of long-held secrets. Welcome to small-town Connecticut, a place whose inhabitants seem to have it From Center for Fiction First Novel Prize finalist Bethany Ball comes a biting and darkly funny new novel that follows a set of privileged, jaded Connecticut suburbanites whose cozy, seemingly picture-perfect, lives begin to unravel amid shocking turns of fate and revelations of long-held secrets. Welcome to small-town Connecticut, a place whose inhabitants seem to have it all -- the status, the homes, the money, and the ennui. There's Tripp and Virginia, beloved hosts whom the community idolizes, whose basement hides among other things a secret stash of guns and a drastic plan to survive the end times. There's Gunter and Rachel, recent transplants who left New York City to raise their children, only to feel both imprisoned by the banality of suburbia. And Richard and Margot, community veterans whose extramarital affairs and battles with mental health are disguised by their enviably polished veneers and perfect children. At the center of it all is the Petra School, the most coveted of all the private schools in the state, a supposed utopia of mindfulness and creativity, with a history as murky and suspect as our character's inner worlds. With deep wit and delicious incisiveness, in The Pessimists, Bethany Ball peels back the veneer of upper-class white suburbia to expose the destructive consequences of unchecked privilege and moral apathy in a world that is rapidly evolving without them. This is a superbly drawn portrait of a community, and its couples, torn apart by unmet desires, duplicity, hypocrisy, and dangerous levels of discontent.


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From Center for Fiction First Novel Prize finalist Bethany Ball comes a biting and darkly funny new novel that follows a set of privileged, jaded Connecticut suburbanites whose cozy, seemingly picture-perfect, lives begin to unravel amid shocking turns of fate and revelations of long-held secrets. Welcome to small-town Connecticut, a place whose inhabitants seem to have it From Center for Fiction First Novel Prize finalist Bethany Ball comes a biting and darkly funny new novel that follows a set of privileged, jaded Connecticut suburbanites whose cozy, seemingly picture-perfect, lives begin to unravel amid shocking turns of fate and revelations of long-held secrets. Welcome to small-town Connecticut, a place whose inhabitants seem to have it all -- the status, the homes, the money, and the ennui. There's Tripp and Virginia, beloved hosts whom the community idolizes, whose basement hides among other things a secret stash of guns and a drastic plan to survive the end times. There's Gunter and Rachel, recent transplants who left New York City to raise their children, only to feel both imprisoned by the banality of suburbia. And Richard and Margot, community veterans whose extramarital affairs and battles with mental health are disguised by their enviably polished veneers and perfect children. At the center of it all is the Petra School, the most coveted of all the private schools in the state, a supposed utopia of mindfulness and creativity, with a history as murky and suspect as our character's inner worlds. With deep wit and delicious incisiveness, in The Pessimists, Bethany Ball peels back the veneer of upper-class white suburbia to expose the destructive consequences of unchecked privilege and moral apathy in a world that is rapidly evolving without them. This is a superbly drawn portrait of a community, and its couples, torn apart by unmet desires, duplicity, hypocrisy, and dangerous levels of discontent.

30 review for The Pessimists

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    This brilliant seriocomedy — is undeniably deliciously hilarious and compelling!!! I enjoy satirist - dark - smart - contemporary fiction….and “The Pessimists” is pure perfection! It’s even better than “What To Do About The Solomons”, (which was a trip-of-a-novel that used up all my senses too)……. but Bethany Ball outdid herself with her sophomore novel. It’s so darn wickedly-enjoyable —portraying suburban absurdity with such honesty….it reads with funny-bone satisfaction along with a kind of respe This brilliant seriocomedy — is undeniably deliciously hilarious and compelling!!! I enjoy satirist - dark - smart - contemporary fiction….and “The Pessimists” is pure perfection! It’s even better than “What To Do About The Solomons”, (which was a trip-of-a-novel that used up all my senses too)……. but Bethany Ball outdid herself with her sophomore novel. It’s so darn wickedly-enjoyable —portraying suburban absurdity with such honesty….it reads with funny-bone satisfaction along with a kind of respectful-resign to just how pathetic modern life is. Going to catch some sleep - I’ll rerun tomorrow with a few more things to add …. I’m BACK..... UPDATE: The setting centered around three couples and their children, in a small town of Connecticut, (Somerset), reminded me of towns like Traverse City, in Michigan, or “The Gilmore Girls” : a white, upperclass, community. Smiling parents were everywhere. They cheered their kids when playing basketball, or soccer. There was pizza and take-in Thai food. There were marriages, and second marriages.....families struggling under the surface of their privileged lives. There was an emphasis on making happy Whole-Children. Sacrifice was just part of the parenting deal. As funny as many of the scenes were - Bethany Ball examines white suburban upper class nuttiness with razor sharp prose...... Parenting ‘right’ was not only exhausting, but was slowly ripping apart these couples own authentic happiness. They were stuck on the treadmill - dissatisfied, depressed, disillusioned couples. Its embarrassing and shameful to admit, but I related with this meshugana culture. I’ve been blessed with my marriage ....but in the area of parenting, I saw an awful lot of this culture. I was ‘part’ of it too, if I’m honest. I’m now way past the age of child rearing.... but didn’t I, too, want to do everything right? Wasn’t I also a little too obsessive in parenting to perfection? I would’ve never admitted it at the time.... thinking I was very relaxed....but when our family began to unravel with our daughters eating disorder: anorexic, a huge awakening hit me over the head like a ton of bricks. Of course our individual family stories are different than the ones we read in “The Pessimists”, - but what makes this book soooo good, is that it’s rooted in collective discernment and perceptiveness. With fine detail and development of the characters....every reader can identify with with at ‘least’ one of them ....and the issues explored. I doubt there is a couple or parent in the world that couldn’t relate. It doesn’t matter if we were ‘as’ obsessed, ‘as’ wealthy, or even ‘as’ white as these families....if we raised children, we were often worried, and stressed about ‘something’. Bethany Ball unthreaded the wounds of these couples inner pain with a keen eye — truthful, insightful, poignant. One mother was hiding the discovery of a lump in her breast (it felt like the only thing that was fully her own). An architect dad, secretly kept guns and boxes of ammunition in his basement. His wife knew nothing about it [“Rough times ahead. The recession is nothing to what’s coming. Ice caps melting and filling the seas. Superstorms. Massive hurricanes. Poles shifting. Solar flares knocking out the electrical grid] Stay-at-home mothers stayed at home, even after their kids were old enough to go to school. There were queen bees and cliques just like in high school. There were the popular moms with the good hair and fashionable clothes and there were the hurting lonely moms at the edges. There were community parties, friends, secrets, likable and unlikable characters, jealously & legacy....money, expensive trips, private tennis lessons, swim lessons, extramarital affairs, yoga, spin classes, and.... A very expensive private Garden of Eden pioneer type school where outdoor play, was the very foundation of children’s education. At the Pricey Petra Private School, where learning was associated with pushing....they discouraged overstimulating, over scheduled and overwhelmed children with school work, sports, and obligations. Smart phones were not allowed; no plastic toys. They had no ADHD diagnosis, no dyslexia, no learning disabilities, no bullying, no eating disorders, of any kind..... Ha.... and no reading until a child had lost two teeth. “God forbid children should go to a public school— be thrown to the wolves”. “Children have long recesses. They climb trees and build treehouses. They are outside no matter the weather”. At Parents Night, parents are given an education of what to expect. “We have a saying here at Petra: There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing! So please be sure to send your kids with extra clothing. A little later we will take you to see our chickens and our goat, Shelley. We have some expert goat milkers! The kids spend more time outside than in!” Reading? Math? Don’t be silly! The Petra School’s Philosophy isn’t about pushing. “Progress is another word ‘we’ do you not like here. It insinuates that education goes in a straight line from the uneducated to the educated” “Does it not?” one father asked? “The culture of competition is not what we like to promote here at the Petra School”. Parents made sacrifices. They had sexless lives; low libidos. They took Prozac, drank wine and Red Bull. They struggled with the white, Waspish suburbia modern life rules, middle age, parenting, and self-fulfillment. And there was this..... THE MIND HAS AN INNER VOICE OF ITS OWN: “Margot couldn’t get pregnant while their friends contended with the dreaded gas, colic, teething, eczema, and allergies. One friend hung up a rope from his ceiling and swang a baby car seat back and forth back and forth until their baby stopped crying. Others drove their babies around in their cars or took endless walks. They gave them baby Tylenol, amber teething beads, baby massage, drops of sugar water, rum smeared on gums, homeopathic remedies from Whole Foods. One mom claimed she put the baby down in his room, shut the door, and tiptoed around the house wearing both earplugs and noisecanceling headphones for as long as she could stand it, before finally checking in to find her baby asleep or even, sometimes playing quietly with her toes”. “How cruel, Margot told Richard. They weren’t going to be like that. They were going to be good, reasonable parents. They weren’t going to freak out, like Richard‘s coworkers had”. These characters were pained and discombobulated ....nobody was truly happy. Not sober, anyway. But....they were ‘deeply’ human. I was pulling them to find contentment and peacefulness. My goodness ...”The Pessimists” would make a great movie or Netflix series. This book will be released in stores in October. Thank you Netgalley, Grove Atlantic, and Bethany Balls.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This novel is about three white, wealthy families that live in Connecticut. It is centered around a very expensive alternative and unconventional school that their children go to. We see their every day life, their relationship with the other couples, their dissatisfaction with their life choices, the secrets they keep, and also their pain. I really did not love a single character in this book, but it was a very addicting read for me, hard to put down! Thank you to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for This novel is about three white, wealthy families that live in Connecticut. It is centered around a very expensive alternative and unconventional school that their children go to. We see their every day life, their relationship with the other couples, their dissatisfaction with their life choices, the secrets they keep, and also their pain. I really did not love a single character in this book, but it was a very addicting read for me, hard to put down! Thank you to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for the ARC!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bethany Ball

    DEFINITELY five stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Bethany Ball’s The Pessimists gives us a cutting, satirical look at American suburbia through the interlacing stories of three Connecticut couples. We first meet the protagonists during a New Year’s Eve party thrown by Virginia and her husband Tripp, who is obsessed with surviving the end times and keeps an arsenal of guns hidden in the basement. Virginia’s old friend Margot, an obsessive-compulsive “perfect” mother/housewife is there with her husband Richard, who has a not-so-secret crush on Vi Bethany Ball’s The Pessimists gives us a cutting, satirical look at American suburbia through the interlacing stories of three Connecticut couples. We first meet the protagonists during a New Year’s Eve party thrown by Virginia and her husband Tripp, who is obsessed with surviving the end times and keeps an arsenal of guns hidden in the basement. Virginia’s old friend Margot, an obsessive-compulsive “perfect” mother/housewife is there with her husband Richard, who has a not-so-secret crush on Virginia. Joining the circle of friends are Swedish architect Gunter and his much younger wife Rachel, who have recently moved from New York to provide their children with a quieter life. In the background there is the constant presence of the Petra School, a much-coveted local private educations institution which is looked up to as the epitome of progressive learning, but which might hide a darker history and methodology than is immediately apparent. While in the first part of the book the characters are primarily presented as “couples”, the second partfocusses on the individuals. Like a magician shuffling a deck of cards and surprising the audience with sleight of hand, Ball has several twists up her sleeve. The result is an acerbic novel which is also unexpectedly gripping. I found it less of a laugh-out-load comedy than some other reviewers, but it is certainly a witty and thought-provoking satire. https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/20...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    I caught up with a friend yesterday, one I’ve known most of my life and one whom I’d spoken with in some capacity almost daily, be it by phone or text or in person, for the better part of our friendship. It had been several days since our last correspondence but felt like weeks, if not months. Suffice to say, we had a lot of news to share with one another. Such “news” was mostly innocuous banter, to be honest. Or, what I like to call “life stuff”: the moments which make up your day until it’s re I caught up with a friend yesterday, one I’ve known most of my life and one whom I’d spoken with in some capacity almost daily, be it by phone or text or in person, for the better part of our friendship. It had been several days since our last correspondence but felt like weeks, if not months. Suffice to say, we had a lot of news to share with one another. Such “news” was mostly innocuous banter, to be honest. Or, what I like to call “life stuff”: the moments which make up your day until it’s reached its capacity (or in many cases, beyond). My friend had recently had a child and is still dealing with the ins and outs, ups and downs of new parenthood. I too shared my own parenting adventures; swimming and gymnastics and art classes and regular classes oh my! You know the drill. Hell, you’ve likely lived it already if you aren’t doing so currently. It brought to mind the great David Bowie track, “Changes,” whereupon the singer proclaims “pretty soon now you’re gonna get older,” an obvious yet poignant lyric that never truly hits home until one begins to experience time’s ability to change. Parenthood will do that. Marriage, too. Houses and jobs and, well, “life stuff.” After all, we can’t be our youthful selves forever. I am pretty certain my aforementioned friend felt he could, or at least reflect upon “the good old days” enough to make the currents ones more desirable. Me? I hardly reflect at all, for time is inevitable. It’s undefeated. Why not embrace it for all the good it can give? To each their own. But I get it. I have a family member who is so obsessed with his youth he doctored his driver’s license so that he appeared decades younger than his actual age. My wife prescribes – and wears – anti-aging cream. #TBT on social media channels designates an entire day each week to celebrating our pasts. It’s easy to see the appeal. Moving forward can be difficult, especially as we get older, as life becomes more and more challenging. We try and cherry pick the best from our pasts and apply them to our currents with the intention of growing, of evolving, of attaining personal fulfillment. And sure, many of us do grow, evolve, gain fulfillment. But it doesn’t somehow subtract or diminish the harshness of reality. I’d argue it can make reality even more harsh. I am not saying we shouldn’t give in to our distractions every so often; what I am saying, however, is that it’s important to be aware of the vulnerability which comes as a direct result. Yesterday morning I spoke with my therapist about such distractions, about how they had limited my ability to move forward, stunted my growth like a cup of coffee would an eleven-year-old. Better still, they delayed the inevitability of reality. It’s a common method we humans employ, one which busies the mind to the point of oversaturation and subsequent deferral until the umpteenth moment. It’s not as if we’re better equipped to face our fears after waiting them out. Many of us think we can outsmart them, grow wiser as to why we fear what we fear. Others think we can outlast them, that they’ll go away eventually. And we all know that very rarely works. I can’t cast blame on either side of the fence. After all, I’ve spent time in both areas myself (still do, sometimes), hence the therapy (well, that and several other reasons). So too have the three couples which anchor Bethany Ball’s ode to suburban ennui, The Pessimists. Each are navigating the choppy waters of middle age, of parenthood, of social status. And not a single one of them is equipped to face their inevitable. Not yet, at least. Okay, that’s slightly inaccurate. An entire subplot revolves around one character’s own “doomsday preparation,” yet it’s for a fear both unwarranted and hypothetical. Juxtapose his gratuitousness with his wife’s recent cancer diagnosis (which she’s kept mostly secret), and you can gain a sense to the spectrum of which Ball’s ensemble experiences. These are very real problems, some of which deserve attention, others of which deserve parody. And all are fair game in The Pessimists. The aforementioned couple, Tripp and Virginia, are stalwarts of a posh Connecticut enclave in which they’re revered. On the surface the couple is all but thriving; in fact, it’s a running trend amongst the other pair of couples with whom Tripp and Virginia interact: frustrated citified transplants Gunter and Rachel, and functionally dysfunctional community mainstays Richard and Margot. Each couple – individual, really – assert a polished, shimmering façade when in actuality, their struggles are very, very real. Even those which seem too preposterous to believe. Through her half dozen protagonists Ball touches upon themes of adultery, substance abuse, wealth and, above all, insecurity. These are very much people whose externals and internals rarely align, the former consistently taking a back seat to the latter. All the while lingering in the background is the fancy Montessori school on steroids – named Petra, which translates to “rock” in Greek – in which these couples send their children to receive an expensive, unorthodox education. Petra is a character in its own right, a persistent figure whose presence represents stability yet offers anything but. It’s no wonder this ensemble is such a mess. Not to mention quick to live up to their name. As their individual veneers crack, so too do their perceptions of reality – or the rather unreal reality in which they’ve inhabited. It makes for a significant dichotomy, all but forcing these pessimists to finally face their fears and trepidations head on, whether it be to continue polishing their false fronts or in recognition of a status quo that’s become wholly unsustainable. You don’t necessary empathize with these folks – I certainly didn’t as I found not one of them likable – so much as relate to them. Because who can’t relate to distracting oneself with nothing but good to counter all the bad? We’re all guilty of it; where we differ is how we choose to perceive these distractions. Are they a temporary replacement for a void seemingly unfillable, or an idealized daydream we convince ourselves will one day come to fruition? Real life isn’t equipped with a filter to parse the good from the bad, or vice versa. What The Pessimists proclaims is that the further we get away from reality, the harsher it becomes when we’re all but forced to confront it. We all must face it sooner or later, so which would you choose?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ruben

    Suburban America is an insane place. I have never been there, but it feels very familiar thanks to many great TV shows (Big Little Lies) and movies (American Beauty). This fun, smart and fast novel also seems made to be adapted for TV. It centres around three couples in Connecticut who all send their children to a wildly expensive private school where kids basically don’t have to learn anything but are allowed to just be children. All six parents have their issue, as couples and as individuals. Suburban America is an insane place. I have never been there, but it feels very familiar thanks to many great TV shows (Big Little Lies) and movies (American Beauty). This fun, smart and fast novel also seems made to be adapted for TV. It centres around three couples in Connecticut who all send their children to a wildly expensive private school where kids basically don’t have to learn anything but are allowed to just be children. All six parents have their issue, as couples and as individuals. And whilst there is not too much plot (in the sense of a red threat), it is clear that the status-quo is unsustainable and something has to give. I was absorbed in the story from page 1 and finished it in three evenings. It’s mostly a lot of fun, but at times also serious and thought-provoking. The only small criticism I would have is that the ending felt a bit abrupt – with very little left the story could still go anywhere. I wouldn’t have minded an additional 100 pages in this case (or better: a second season!). Very highly recommended, 4,5

  7. 5 out of 5

    R.L. Maizes

    I devoured this book over a weekend. I loved the author’s debut novel, What To Do About the Solomons, and The Pessimists is even more compelling. Hilarious and thought-provoking throughout.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Yahaira

    I guess miserable white suburbanites is one of my favorite genres or tropes because this was an unputdownable book for me. It was a breezy read while showing us people’s lives falling apart -how did Ball balance that? I could see these (sometimes moronic, sometimes insecure) characters and (antisemetic and anti-vax) school come to life and I wanted to know what absurd things were going to happen next. A great balance of humor, sadness, and satire. Why yes, everyone is going through the same ridi I guess miserable white suburbanites is one of my favorite genres or tropes because this was an unputdownable book for me. It was a breezy read while showing us people’s lives falling apart -how did Ball balance that? I could see these (sometimes moronic, sometimes insecure) characters and (antisemetic and anti-vax) school come to life and I wanted to know what absurd things were going to happen next. A great balance of humor, sadness, and satire. Why yes, everyone is going through the same ridiculousness. It's ok.

  9. 5 out of 5

    JP

    3.5⭐️ An interesting look at families and their “stuff”. We all have it, “stuff”. This felt like a burden to me. A relationship that should of ended. A trap. The story drove on empty and feed on dissatisfied. It made me uncomfortable and I really don’t know how I feel about the ending. Good writing, sad story. A lot of people liked this but me not so much. I chose to listen to this book on audio and the narrator was great. Thanks HighBridge Audio via Netgalley.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karen Foster

    I do love a sharp and witty satire of marriage and suburban ennui, secrets and lies, and those rich people problems that are my comfort read (for some strange reason!) Three couples, a sleepy Connecticut suburb, their lives all revolving around a private school, with it’s somewhat unusual philosophies and domineering head mistress with questionable connections in the past. Perceptive, amusing, and heartbreaking at times, a really fun read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    Rich (and richish) white people problems can be really fun when done right, Think Big Little Lies or The Nest (which I loved), but this is dark satire rather than a mystery. This is a character driven novel that’s witty, and, at times funny, but I couldn’t find myself feeling invested in any of the three couples. A story without likable characters is interesting conceptually, but the author has to give the reader something to care about, a reason to keep reading. I kept on going in search of it. Rich (and richish) white people problems can be really fun when done right, Think Big Little Lies or The Nest (which I loved), but this is dark satire rather than a mystery. This is a character driven novel that’s witty, and, at times funny, but I couldn’t find myself feeling invested in any of the three couples. A story without likable characters is interesting conceptually, but the author has to give the reader something to care about, a reason to keep reading. I kept on going in search of it. For purposes of this review, I wanted to find it, but it just wasn’t there. Thank you to NetGalley for this copy in exchange for my review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sean Loughran

    I had a really hard time putting this one down. Seriously, I contemplated taking it into the shower with me. I was so engrossed from the get go, gobbling down the lives of the six protagonists in just two sittings. The book opens at Virginia and Tripp's house, where they're hosting a 2013 New Year's Eve party. Right away, I felt I had this incredible insight into suburban life, and was getting some serious Desperate Housewives and The Stepford Wives vibes, which I absolutely loved. I found the bo I had a really hard time putting this one down. Seriously, I contemplated taking it into the shower with me. I was so engrossed from the get go, gobbling down the lives of the six protagonists in just two sittings. The book opens at Virginia and Tripp's house, where they're hosting a 2013 New Year's Eve party. Right away, I felt I had this incredible insight into suburban life, and was getting some serious Desperate Housewives and The Stepford Wives vibes, which I absolutely loved. I found the book dryly hilarious as times as I thought about each character and their ordinary routines. Things that might be boring and ritualistic otherwise, however, they weren't. Each character was so thoughtfully developed throughout the book, keeping me totally engaged. I felt like I could picture them in my mind, and they only grew more interesting as they developed with the plot. Ball manages to capture the essence of suburban life with such accuracy, each detail of The Pessimists carefully constructed to create the perfect scenes. Bethany kept me captive, and like I said, I carried this book everywhere with me, practically inhaling it, so entirely absorbed by each of the individuals in the book. I especially loved reading about The Petra School, which the book revolves around. Ball describes it so vividly and in so much detail that she brought it to life as though it were a real place. I wonder if such places exist in suburbia. I'm thinking that they do, but perhaps not quite as extreme as Petra. The descriptions of the school, and especially the "Dear Petra School Parents" notes at the end of each chapter had me in fits of laughter, each one giving me more insight into the current affairs at the school. I found the characters of Margot and Rachel particularly interesting as their stories developed throughout. Margot reminds me, at times, of Bree Van De Camp, from Desperate Housewives. I loved reading about her rigidity, actions, and demeanor. Although I found her story quite sad at times, I thought she was a really quirky character that added more layers to the story. Rachel held me captive throughout as I read of her unravelling. She's a compelling character and I quite simply couldn't get enough of her. It was truly interesting to get a glimpse of each character's perspective set out in different chapters in the book. Each one is facing their own challenges, holding their own hopes, dreams, fears, and secrets close to their hearts. There's an undercurrent of excitement and thrill throughout the book, with the Petra School at the center of it all. It felt like a gift to be able to read this early, so thank you to PGC Books and Grove Atlantic for the advanced reader copy. I highly recommend this one - you won't regret it! Avocado Diaries

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    I wanted to like this book. However, it fell flat for my taste. It was an easy read about three white suburban families living in Connecticut. The common ground of all the families was the Petra School. A Hippie Dippy alternative school that blames technology, testing and competition for the downfall of society. I wanted to roll my eyes every time the emails went out from Petra to the families. From the outside, these families seem not only somewhat normal, but perfect. However, a closer look sh I wanted to like this book. However, it fell flat for my taste. It was an easy read about three white suburban families living in Connecticut. The common ground of all the families was the Petra School. A Hippie Dippy alternative school that blames technology, testing and competition for the downfall of society. I wanted to roll my eyes every time the emails went out from Petra to the families. From the outside, these families seem not only somewhat normal, but perfect. However, a closer look shows that they are all falling apart and failing from the inside. The writing style wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t like and couldn’t relate to any of the characters. The idea of the story was on point, I just don’t feel it was executed great. There were supposed to be parts with humor in it, but I never really found it funny or amusing. It was interesting enough to keep me going through it but wasn’t exciting. There didn’t seem to be a climax to the story, it was just all at the same level. Honestly, I tried reading this one because I share the same first name with the author. Probably won’t be doing that again.

  14. 4 out of 5

    miss.mesmerized mesmerized

    A small community in Connecticut. Three couples of middle age all have their respective struggles: Margot has never gotten over the loss of her baby girl, their three sons can only make up so much for this; while she is grieving, her husband Richard is having extramarital affairs to forget about his homely negative mood. Gunter and Rachel are new to the small place, the Swede has serious problems of adaptation and can only wonder about the small town Americans, whereas his wife Rachel tries to b A small community in Connecticut. Three couples of middle age all have their respective struggles: Margot has never gotten over the loss of her baby girl, their three sons can only make up so much for this; while she is grieving, her husband Richard is having extramarital affairs to forget about his homely negative mood. Gunter and Rachel are new to the small place, the Swede has serious problems of adaptation and can only wonder about the small town Americans, whereas his wife Rachel tries to be supermom and get her children into the prestigious Petra school. Virginia’s daughter already attends this institution but the mother is starting to wonder if the place is actually a good choice while her husband Trip has developed an end of time fear and wants his family to be prepared for the worst case which is sure to come soon. While the parents are occupied with themselves, their kids are educated in a quite unique institution with very special educational views. Bethany Ball paints a rather gloomy picture of three middle-aged families. The love at first sight and life on cloud number nine is only a faint memory, if they are still interested in their partner, this is more out of convenience than out of love. Their children are strange creatures with which they have rather complicated relationships and whom they do not seem to understand at all. Life does not have much to offer outside the big city and so, consequently, the turn into “The Pessimists”. It is upper class white suburbia life that the novel ridicules: the invite the “right” people to dibber parties even though they hate barbecuing and do not even like their guests. The women are reduced to being housewives even though they had successful careers in the city, yet, these are not compatible with life in a small town. They are not even aware of how privileged they are, they feel depressed and deceived by life, seemingly none of them got what they expected from life. Apart from being miserable, they pretend that all is best in their life to keep up the picture they want the others to see. Only brief glances behind the facade allow the truth to show. This rather dark atmosphere is broken up repeatedly by episodes of Petra school. It is the absolutely exaggerated picture of an alternative institution which actually does not take education too seriously, but is highly occupied with spiritual well-being and a lifestyle nobody can ever stick too. The information mails they send out to the parents are simply hilarious and made me laugh out loud more than once – however, I don’t doubt that such places might actually exist. A satire of small town America which is funny on the one hand but quite serious regarding the message behind the superficial storyline.

  15. 5 out of 5

    josie

    campy trashy delicious….not exactly what you would describe as Subtle but a fun and slightly maddening portrait of suburban nihilism. ty netgalley for the early copy

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jean-Luc

    Welcome to the really dysfunctional world of Virginia, Tripp, Margo and Richard in the Pessimists, Bethany Ball's delicious and addictive slice of American absurdity in suburbia. Suffice to say that I personally and thoroughly disliked those four half-baked morons who seemed incapable of growing up and their harebrained delusions of grandeur, their vacuous and pretentious aspirations and their totally messed up relationships. But like a big indolent moth, I got totally hypnotized by this fascina Welcome to the really dysfunctional world of Virginia, Tripp, Margo and Richard in the Pessimists, Bethany Ball's delicious and addictive slice of American absurdity in suburbia. Suffice to say that I personally and thoroughly disliked those four half-baked morons who seemed incapable of growing up and their harebrained delusions of grandeur, their vacuous and pretentious aspirations and their totally messed up relationships. But like a big indolent moth, I got totally hypnotized by this fascinating story and all the hysterical trimmings that came along with it. I just loved this novel, its menacing undercurrent & all its characters' flaws. You will need to trust me and just go ahead & dive into that cesspool of absurdity. A crisp, tart and fiendishly satisfying read that left me wondering if America wasn't really losing it after all??? A delicious and perverse treat to be enjoyed without any moderation👍 Many thanks to the Netgalley and Grove for this crazy & terrific ARC

  17. 4 out of 5

    3 Things About This Book

    I liked the every bit of satire in this book: the people, their lifestyle, "hobbies", first world problems, weird schools, eating habits, tackling problems, and many more tiny yet cringe-worthy things about them.... Every page I flipped I muttered "seriously?!", but also I loved how Bethany Ball's story telling made me say that while probably she was laughing at these people too. Petra School and Agnes... These are the two names you need to know. These two names are the root of all first world pr I liked the every bit of satire in this book: the people, their lifestyle, "hobbies", first world problems, weird schools, eating habits, tackling problems, and many more tiny yet cringe-worthy things about them.... Every page I flipped I muttered "seriously?!", but also I loved how Bethany Ball's story telling made me say that while probably she was laughing at these people too. Petra School and Agnes... These are the two names you need to know. These two names are the root of all first world problems and CT suburbanite troubles. Sure, schools are important. They shape their immediate neighbours and our society, but sometimes people need to be careful about the type of impact. Not every person who can dictate something is a person to follow. I laughed so much at these people's naiveté and/or superiority complex because they can live in good houses and afford college tuition for a not so educative daycare. It's a great reflection of our society and its members who do not know where to spend their money or pretend to spend their non-existent wealth. It might not be relatable at personal level, but I'm sure you know people like these

  18. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    The first 75% was so slow and boring and confusing. The last 25% was jam packed with plot but only in a way that made me wonder why there couldn’t have been more build up throughout. I did like the parody of Petra school - very funny. Wouldn’t recommend though.

  19. 5 out of 5

    bambu78

    I got this book as an ARC and what follows is my honest opinion. The novel revolves around 3 couples living with their kids in a typical American suburban neighbourhood. We met them all the first time at a New Year's Eve party hosted by Virginia and her husband Tripp. They look so perfect. But perfection is just a mask in the book and below the mask there are secrets, hypocrisy, betrayal and a lot of suffering. But appearance for some of them is just what matters. Just like sending their kids to t I got this book as an ARC and what follows is my honest opinion. The novel revolves around 3 couples living with their kids in a typical American suburban neighbourhood. We met them all the first time at a New Year's Eve party hosted by Virginia and her husband Tripp. They look so perfect. But perfection is just a mask in the book and below the mask there are secrets, hypocrisy, betrayal and a lot of suffering. But appearance for some of them is just what matters. Just like sending their kids to the Petra School, a special alternative school where kids learn how to get their hands dirty, while all the traditional subjects are just left behind. This school is the place around which the 3 couple's lives revolve around, a sort of dream to achieve - but soon also a nightmare to escape from. Meanwhile, the author just leaves the reader to deal with judgments, never intruding in her characters' life too much, just as if she were making a simple chronicle of facts. But all in all she does so with an enigmatic smile on her lips, tracing the contradictions of contemporary society for us - if we want - to see. Nice reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    linn

    In The Pessimists, we follow 3 white couples living in suburban USA and how their lives are affected by each other, by the secrets that they keep, and by the unconventional school which is at the center of the community and of the story. The book takes a satirical look at the everyday suburban life which coupled with the over descriptiveness took some time for me to really get into but by the end, I was really enjoying it. One thing that stood out to me was the way the Swedish character was depi In The Pessimists, we follow 3 white couples living in suburban USA and how their lives are affected by each other, by the secrets that they keep, and by the unconventional school which is at the center of the community and of the story. The book takes a satirical look at the everyday suburban life which coupled with the over descriptiveness took some time for me to really get into but by the end, I was really enjoying it. One thing that stood out to me was the way the Swedish character was depicted, as it sometimes felt as if the author couldn’t really decide what nationality to give to the character so said character ended up with some mix (or maybe that was the point, I couldn’t really tell). actual rating: 3.5 stars Thank you to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for sending me an advanced copy.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hart

    I love a good opener set at a party; Bethany Ball’s THE PESSIMISTS begins on New Year’s Eve in Somerset, CT, as our six characters—Virginia and Tripp, Rachel and Gunter, and Margot and Richard—reveal to us their hidden anxieties. The quick cadence of the sentences and POV shifts hint at a sudden change from average get-together to total cluster. These seemingly nice and perfectly posh people are, in fact, rather messed up. Something happens rather quickly, and then another something, and then an I love a good opener set at a party; Bethany Ball’s THE PESSIMISTS begins on New Year’s Eve in Somerset, CT, as our six characters—Virginia and Tripp, Rachel and Gunter, and Margot and Richard—reveal to us their hidden anxieties. The quick cadence of the sentences and POV shifts hint at a sudden change from average get-together to total cluster. These seemingly nice and perfectly posh people are, in fact, rather messed up. Something happens rather quickly, and then another something, and then another… and from then on, we learn what these upper-middle-class suburbanites are really like and how their children get caught in the crossfires. And oh, let’s not forget to mention that the school at the center of these three families, the Petra School, is quite cultish. My feelings swung between pity and surprise, each chapter bringing in something even more ridiculous than the last, but I never was exhausted. Ball does a great job here portraying this deranged system and those who perpetuate it, and the denouement is fairly shocking. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dickson

    It's a novel about wealthy suburbanites dissatisfied with their lives and choices. And while privileged people can have epiphanies, the emotional stakes seem low. Infidelity occurs, but the marriages weren't happy in the first place, and so the affairs do not generate narrative tension or a sense of loss. Parents become disillusioned with a private school, but we aren't surprised when it's not what it seems. And everyone grapples with political correctness in ways that feel more dated than incis It's a novel about wealthy suburbanites dissatisfied with their lives and choices. And while privileged people can have epiphanies, the emotional stakes seem low. Infidelity occurs, but the marriages weren't happy in the first place, and so the affairs do not generate narrative tension or a sense of loss. Parents become disillusioned with a private school, but we aren't surprised when it's not what it seems. And everyone grapples with political correctness in ways that feel more dated than incisive (a character takes the daring dinner-party step of expressing mild support for Barack Obama, an anti-vaccination subplot seems likely to have been written before COVID, various child-rearing theories are included for the sake of being skewered). It's well-written enough and meant to be satirical, but at the end, there's not enough dynamic change--these characters seem like they will still eventually retire to Florida and vote for whichever political party they think will benefit their stock portfolio. Many thanks to Grove Atlantic and Netgalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Books about rich people in Connecticut and their (ridiculous) lives are always fun to read and this one did not disappoint. Rich in satire and provocative in nature, I loved the characters and the tiny slivers of their true selves. Could a school like this exist? It bears consideration because there's no doubt that there are schools that could be models for this one. It makes you laugh and it makes you think. For me, that's a good read. Evilly delicious, shall we say? Books about rich people in Connecticut and their (ridiculous) lives are always fun to read and this one did not disappoint. Rich in satire and provocative in nature, I loved the characters and the tiny slivers of their true selves. Could a school like this exist? It bears consideration because there's no doubt that there are schools that could be models for this one. It makes you laugh and it makes you think. For me, that's a good read. Evilly delicious, shall we say?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis Warman

    Thoroughly loved and enjoyed. My first read in over a year of unmotivated pandemic-induced blah, and I couldn’t be more pleased with myself — and author, Bethany Ball — for my choice. Ms Ball’s musings and insights, as voiced by her cast of insecure characters, is spot on. There’s a little of them in all of us making this book both entertaining and relatable. Found myself nodding with delight and laughing aloud all the way through. Already looking forward to Ms Ball’s next one...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    A bunch of dissatisfied, dysfunctional suburbanite friends and the private school that ties them all together. Another book that is supposed to be humerous that I found no humor in. I didn't particularly like any of the characters, except maybe Virginia. I honestly don't even know what to say about it. I am in the minority here as it seems well liked by everyone but me, but it left me feeling somewhat drained. A bunch of dissatisfied, dysfunctional suburbanite friends and the private school that ties them all together. Another book that is supposed to be humerous that I found no humor in. I didn't particularly like any of the characters, except maybe Virginia. I honestly don't even know what to say about it. I am in the minority here as it seems well liked by everyone but me, but it left me feeling somewhat drained.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Erin Glover

    I started out really engrossed in this novel, but realized toward the end that nothing really happens. It was entertaining to read about three couples in suburbia who seem perfect on the outside but have wild secrets and dispositions. Tripp is building an arsenal in his basement for when the apocalypse comes. “The [2008] recession is nothing compared to what’s coming. Ice caps melting and filling the seas. Superstorms. Massive hurricanes. Poles shifting. Solar flares knocking out the electrical I started out really engrossed in this novel, but realized toward the end that nothing really happens. It was entertaining to read about three couples in suburbia who seem perfect on the outside but have wild secrets and dispositions. Tripp is building an arsenal in his basement for when the apocalypse comes. “The [2008] recession is nothing compared to what’s coming. Ice caps melting and filling the seas. Superstorms. Massive hurricanes. Poles shifting. Solar flares knocking out the electrical grid.” His wife has no idea what’s in their basement. But Virginia has her own secret. She’s dying of breast cancer and has told no one. Richard, Tripp’s oldest friend, has a thing for Virginia. But his wife surprises him by announcing she’s pregnant (the only time her mental health problems are under control) putting the cabash on anything happening with Virginia. Gunter, a Swedish architect who can’t hold his liquor becomes enamored with Agnes, the headmistress at the Petra school and announces to his wife he’s a changed man. The three couples suburban craziness was engrossing, but I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. Not one of them was likable. The real satire in the book surrounds the Petra school run by the mysterious Agnes. At this exclusive private school, parents spend the equivalent of college tuition for elementary school. Yet, at the school, the kids are not educated. They aren’t allowed to read until 2 teeth fall out. They don’t know their multiplication tables. Yet parents clamor to get their children into the school. Worse, the school has ties to Nazis. All of this was amusing but there was no real tension or climax in the novel. It seemed to be missing a chapter. The writing is great which is part of why I kept reading, but nothing really happens. And all the couples seem to be falling apart. I think the story is meant to satirize rich suburbanites who seem to have it all together and who fight to get their kids into the best schools. But I had trouble with it because there was no single protagonist, and no one to really connect with or root for.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for my eARC in exchange for my honest review of the novel. This book will be published on October 12, 2021! "The Pessimists" by Bethany Hall, in short, is a novel about a small white upper middle class community in Connecticut and their lives. It is essentially a slice-of-life novel about some not very sympathetic characters in my opinion. I was very excited to read this and immediately started it as soon as I was approved. Unfortunately, I found myself s Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for my eARC in exchange for my honest review of the novel. This book will be published on October 12, 2021! "The Pessimists" by Bethany Hall, in short, is a novel about a small white upper middle class community in Connecticut and their lives. It is essentially a slice-of-life novel about some not very sympathetic characters in my opinion. I was very excited to read this and immediately started it as soon as I was approved. Unfortunately, I found myself struggling with reading this. The writing style works with the subject matter and as a result, creates a piece of satirical literary fiction that points out the issues with communities like this and the idea that a community like this is ideal and idyllic. The struggle for me came mainly from the fact that I didn't like or sympathize with any of the characters. Perhaps that's a positive point for Hall but for me as a reader, it made the novel difficult to get through. I think this novel is brilliant because of Hall's execution and it is so clear that Hall knew what she was doing as a writer. That said, I didn't enjoy the novel for the aforementioned reasons. I would still recommend this book however because I think that it's written well and it accomplishes what it set out to do.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Suzi

    “The Pessimists” is a biting satire about white affluent New England suburbanites who appear to have it all. Perfect houses, perfect children, perfect marriages – perfect lives. But barely scratch the surface, and you’ll see these facades are just for show. Infidelity, infertility, cancer, mental health, antisemitism, these folks are dealing with it all in spades. And at the center of it all, the exclusive Petra School, the supposed pinnacle of progressive education, which plays an outsized role “The Pessimists” is a biting satire about white affluent New England suburbanites who appear to have it all. Perfect houses, perfect children, perfect marriages – perfect lives. But barely scratch the surface, and you’ll see these facades are just for show. Infidelity, infertility, cancer, mental health, antisemitism, these folks are dealing with it all in spades. And at the center of it all, the exclusive Petra School, the supposed pinnacle of progressive education, which plays an outsized role in all their lives. Bethany Ball’s sophomore novel follows three couples in this darkly satirical look at what happens when affluence and privilege go unchecked. None of these characters is particularly likeable, but I don’t think they’re supposed to be. Each of the characters is selfish and self-absorbed in some way. The culty private school and its domineering headmistress Agnes are an allegory about materialism, aspiration, and the fallout from making children the controlling focus in the family. Delivered in a spare, breezy writing style, this story of modern dysfunction is provocative, insightful, and a delight to read. Many thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me an advance copy of this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Fernanda Granzotto

    *Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an early copy of this book for review, all opinions are my own* 1.5 stars I'm not quite sure what the point of this book was. I like to read about white rich families that look perfect on the outside but aren't. But I felt that this book doesn't have a plot, we just follow the lives of these 3 families and what they have most in common is being friends and the weird school their kids go to. I don't mind just following people's lives if t *Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an early copy of this book for review, all opinions are my own* 1.5 stars I'm not quite sure what the point of this book was. I like to read about white rich families that look perfect on the outside but aren't. But I felt that this book doesn't have a plot, we just follow the lives of these 3 families and what they have most in common is being friends and the weird school their kids go to. I don't mind just following people's lives if they have interesting lives, but I felt that the author got lost at various points in this book. The beginning of the book was boring, then it got interesting then boring again and I was waiting for something to happen, anything substantial other than the small details of everyday life. What bothered me the most was that in the end almost nothing was resolved, several ends were loose, and without explanation. The weird school had no role whatsoever in the story apart from being weird and wrong. The author tried to give an end to the families but I didn't like it because it felt so shallow. I don't recommend this book because I feel that there's nothing in it, besides being a quick read, I feel like I wasted a bit of my time reading it but it could have been worse!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katie Bogdan

    2.5 stars Listening to this audiobook has made me realize that I might not be a literary fiction kind of reader. It's not about the genre being bad, but I just don't think that I am the target audience. There are certainly moments of brilliance in The Pessimists that capture the damaging monotony of suburbia and the complexities of modern marriage. Watching the parents succumb and resist the borderline cult embodied by The Petra School was so horrifying and well-rendered that I almost wished that 2.5 stars Listening to this audiobook has made me realize that I might not be a literary fiction kind of reader. It's not about the genre being bad, but I just don't think that I am the target audience. There are certainly moments of brilliance in The Pessimists that capture the damaging monotony of suburbia and the complexities of modern marriage. Watching the parents succumb and resist the borderline cult embodied by The Petra School was so horrifying and well-rendered that I almost wished that it had been the main storyline. However, the rest of the book - billed as a darkly funny portrayal about three couples attempting to parent amidst their own deferred longings - just felt like a series of events linked by a theme rather than a plot. Listening to the audiobook, I found it difficult to distinguish between the couples and their different situations because every character exists in this perpetual state of dissatisfaction. I found very little of the book to be funny because I have to live with the wide-reaching consequences of people who act like these characters. I have enough existential dread to deal with, thank you very much. Thank you to NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for an ARC of this audiobook in exchange for a fair and honest review!

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