Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Pessimists

by Bethany Ball

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

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date October 18, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6035-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date October 12, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5888-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date October 12, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5889-5
  • US List Price $27.00

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.

Tags Literary

Praise for The Pessimists

One of New York Times’  20 New Works of Fiction to Read This Fall
One of Bustle’s Most Anticipated Books for October
One of E!’s 17 Books to Cozy Up With this Fall

“Cutting and concise… Consider it the east coast version of Big Little Lies.”—E! News Online

“Ball is a pleasure to read. Her sentences are brisk twists of the knife; every satirical dart is a bull’s-eye. She makes a meal out of her space-cadet suburbanites, with their expensive German cars and organic apple juice, but allows their concerns to be widely applicable: Will my children grow up to be OK? Will my life amount to anything? Does my spouse secretly loathe me? Should I be worried about this lump in my breast? Is the thrill of adultery powerful enough to outweigh the guilt of it? Suffering, Ball demonstrates, is universal, and fears are often irrational.”—Molly Young, New York Times

“How do you write about privileged White parents and make it fresh? Leave it to novelist Bethany Ball… The novel’s bite and loose structure promise excellent social satire to come from its author.”—Washington Post

“Graceful, steely… Ball reinvents Cheever country for the 21st Century.”—Oprah Daily

“A gem of a nov­el that bril­liant­ly weaves togeth­er the threads of each family’s sto­ry with com­pas­sion, dis­qui­et­ing notes of dread, and gen­tle humor.”—Jewish Book Council

“Bethany Ball’s literary satire has all the drama of a domestic thriller. Following several messy families in one wealthy Connecticut town, The Pessimists revolves around parents’ relationships with each other, their children, and the prestigious academy that binds them all together.”—Bustle

“A stinging satire about the hollowness of the suburban dream… Withering in its barbed wit, Ball’s mordantly penetrating portrait of middle-class malaise teems with infidelity, inequity, mistrust, and disappointment.”—Booklist

“From Richard Ford to Edward Albee, Rick Moody to John Cheever, the American suburbs have always had a dark core underneath the façade of Levittown homes and perfectly manicured front lawns. Ball gives her own spin on the tribulations of suburban ennui in her aptly named new novel The Pessimists. Ball’s second novel is no mid-century rehash, however, because The Pessimists is very much a suburban gothic for our current American dystopia. The denizens of Connecticut’s Gold Coast include Virginia and Trip, the perfect couple, who secretly hoard a cache of basement weapons to survive the apocalypse, as well as the more conventionally despairing Richard and Margot whose trials only include infidelity and mental health crises. Both twistedly dark and wickedly funny, The Pessimists updates our narratives of suburban anguish for an age of American decline.”—The Millions

The Pessimists is honest and hilarious— treating suburban angst, marriage, and private school life both seriously and with the humor they’re due. Ball writes with the sharpened pen of writers like Meg Wolitzer and Taffy Brodesser-Akner, but with a dangerous edge and a pathos all her own.”—Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Prize Finalist for The Great Believers 

“As a portrait of a wealthy suburban community and the secret weirdos who inhabit it, this novel was perfection. From the private school where the kids aren’t actually learning anything to the dad stockpiling arms for the end of the world, I was with this story. There’s plenty of satire here, for sure, but I also genuinely rooted for these people’s private worries and hopes, the humanity that was still there under so much nonsense.”Mary Beth Keane, author of Ask Again, Yes

The Pessimists is a sweet-and-sour gimlet of a novel. It goes down easy, with a satirical edge and a knock-out punch. With raw honesty and sympathy, Bethany Ball exposes the foibles, follies, and discomforts of her comfortable suburban characters, shedding light into the dark corners of their inner lives. I’ve never seen a writer capture the ambush of middle age so well, with such blunt truth and knife-sharp humor. She details the troubles that come for people whose habitual striving has lost purpose—the disappointments small and large, the widening perforations of marriage and family, the disillusionment and indecision, the simmering discontentment—but also the sparks of joy, the salve of love, and the surprising shoots of growth. She is so good, and The Pessimists is terrific.”—Lauren Acampora, author of The Paper Wasp 

“In spare, headlong prose that hums with erotic possibility, The Pessimists cozies up to three jaded suburban couples, desperate to return to simpler times. At its center, a private school that oozes the most horrifying impulses of whiteness and privilege. Ball’s singular, indelible voice is reminiscent of Joan Didion: probing, wise, and deeply human.”—Jonathan Vatner, author of Carnegie Hill

“I read The Pessimists in one sitting, ignoring my phone and my family until I’d reached the final page. Bethany Ball is a writer of singular power, urgency, and humor, a master chronicler of middleclass ennui in the vein of Tom Perrotta and Meg Wolitzer. I loved this book.”—Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year

Praise for What to do About the Solomons

“There’s nothing more exciting as a bookseller (or a reader) than discovering a new writer who creates memorable characters in a setting we don’t see every day. Funny, sexy, and smart.”—Judy Blume, New York Times, “Summer Reading Recommendations, From 6 Novelists Who Own Bookstores”

“[Ball] works hard to render each [character] with sensitivity and respect, a dedication that also makes her fabulously unafraid to mark her characters with signs of psychosis and brutality… I ended What to Do About the Solomons absolutely swimming with affection, not just for the characters but for the multiple worlds that created them. Despite their collective penchant for psychodrama , there’s something profoundly lovely — and loving —about the Solomons.  And about Bethany Ball’s debut.”—Alana Newhouse, New York Times Book Review

 “A wry, dark multigenerational tale, full of emotional insight, about the Israeli and American branches of an extended family.”—New York Times, 10 Books We Recommend This Week

“Big-hearted, fast-paced…Ball’s debut novel is poignant and full of joy, as she weaves together the dramatic tales of these colorful Solomon clan…Ball has a keen eye for the absurdity of modern life, and a distinctive perspective.”—National Book Review, “5 Hot Books”

“A fast-paced, multigenerational, dysfunctional family drama that also bubbles over with humor and intrigue.”—Jewish Telegraphic Agency

“As with any good literary soap opera, Bethany Ball’s enjoyable debut is filled with fighting, betrayal, intergenerational misunderstandings, and a shocking secret or two.”—New York Journal of Books

“Ball switches points of view for a mosaic of family members and associates in crisis and adrift. Her terse, sharp-edged prose captures settings ranging from an American jail where highest bail is king to a French military post where they haven’t won a war since Napoleon, but they sure know how to live. For all its humor, penetrating disillusionment underlies Ball’s memorable portrait of a family, once driven by pioneer spirit, now plagued by overextension and loss of direction, unsure what to do with its legacy, teetering between resentment, remorse, and resilience.”—Publishers Weekly

“Ball, with great humor, profound wit, and notable insight, vividly captures a singular family . . . This novel from a most promising writer has been compared to the work of Isaac B. Singer and Grace Paley, as well as Nathan Englander and Jennifer Egan. Try Eudora Welty with sex and Jews.”—Booklist 

“Ball’s prose is compulsively readable, almost addictive, and she has a wicked sense of humor.”—Kirkus Reviews