When Jennifer Gilmore’s first novel, Golden Country, was published, The New York Times Book Review called it "an ingeniously plotted family yarn" and praised her as an author who "enlivens the myth of the American Dream." Gilmore’s particular gift for distilling history into a hugely satisfying, multigenerational family story is taken to new levels in her second novel.
In Washington, D.C., life inside the Goldstein home is as tumultuous as the shifting landscape of the times. It is 1979, and Benjamin is heading off to college and sixteen-year-old Vanessa is in the throes of a rocky adolescence. Sharon, a caterer for the Washington elite, ventures into a cultlike organization. And Dennis, whose government job often takes him to Moscow, tries to live up to his father’s legacy as a union organizer and community leader.
The rise of communism and the execution of the Rosenbergs is history. The Cold War is waning, the soldiers who fought in Vietnam have all come home, and Carter is president. The age of protest has come and gone and yet each of the Goldsteins is forced to confront the changes the new decade will bring and explore what it really means to be a radical.
Something Red is at once a poignant story of husbands and wives, parents and children, activists and spies, and a masterfully built novel that unfurls with suspense and humor.
Gilmore's second novel (after Golden Country) takes an extended documentary look at divided loyalties within a suburban Washington, D.C., family caught in the cultural and political mayhem of late-1970s America. With the country seized by an energy crisis, a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan provoking an American wheat embargo, and a boycott against the Winter Olympics, Dennis Goldstein's job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is imperiled, as is the business of his New Agey caterer wife, Sharon. Meanwhile, son Benjamin sets off to college, eager to emulate the activism of his grandparents' 1930s generation, and humorless 16-year-old daughter Vanessa dives into punk rock and bulimia. Gilmore excavates every thought process from each: Sharon recognizes that her faith in the power to make changes in the world felt like a fluid that had been drained from her. Dennis, on the other hand, is the son of Russian Jewish migr s for whom the deaths of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg proved the defining, shameful moment of their generation, and he becomes unwittingly tangled in his mother's Old World perfidy. Gilmore relentlessly chronicles these hapless characters' collective flight from numbness with verve.