Everybody Rise, Stephanie Clifford, author, Katherine Kellgren, narrator
Upwardly mobile 26 year old Evelyn Beegan is on the rise, but the rarified atmosphere of the Gatsbyesque world she wanted to join soon began to corrupt her moral sense of judgment. To hobnob with the rich and famous and accomplish her goal of rising in this esteemed circle’s judgment, hopefully catching a rich husband, also on the rise, she sacrificed her character and her sense of ethics, soon lying and spending far more money than she earned, pushing herself into deeper and deeper debt until it buried her. As reality set in, she deluded herself and lived in a state of denial to justify her behavior. Evelyn’s story is engaging, even as her actions and those of her frenemies become more and more repulsive.
Evelyn’s dad is a fairly well known lawyer who fought for the cause of those abused by big pharmaceutical companies that he and his clients believed had little regard for the dreadful side effects of some of their products. He was the darling of the Democrats. He won large awards for the victims of this perceived corporate corruption. One day, the bubble burst, and his methods attracted the scrutiny of the government. Evelyn’s life, already complicated, became more so.
She had been living beyond her means in the world of her dreams and had constructed a past and a personality that had no resemblance to reality. She was soon even assuming the identity of a former debutante, outsmarting those around her, trying to f it into that world with her charades. She became so embroiled in her own schemes that she convinced herself that she was trying to use her new found stature to rescue her family from its total collapse. She descended into a chaotic world of her own creation. After awhile, she fooled no one but herself.
She preferred the company of the snobs and class-conscious Brahmins of the world to that of ordinary hard working people and haughtily assumed the appropriate air of self-importance to suit the situation. She watched those in the know and carefully imitated them to ingratiate herself into their world, the world of the upper crust, and seemed unaware of the phony and artificial atmosphere. Evelyn was not truly up to the standards of the friends she wanted to run with, nor was she armed with the weapons to outclass them as she hoped. She soon learned to imitate and betray them, but it was doubtful that she could beat them at their own game.
There are humorous exchanges, especially between Evelyn and her mother. Evelyn seemed to be a contradiction in terms, though. On the one hand she was once a kind and good friend, and on the other she was a social climber, first and foremost. Will the real Evelyn ever stand up? Her relationship with her elitist mother dominated her behavior. I kept wondering if the people that she was dealing with could truly exist in the real world, but then I thought of places like Palm Beach and Rodeo Drive and said, yep, they exist, and those awful people who think they are better than the rest of us, also exist. It isn’t the wealth that makes the person offensive; it is the assumption of a higher status at the expense of others.
This book is a case study of a family that falls from grace, slowly but surely. Father, daughter and mother seem to live in an alternate reality. Each of them has severe character flaws. The author develops the characters very well but the story goes on and on with many extraneous dialogues and details as it attempts to explore the chasm between upper and middle class society. I got the point of the book fairly soon, but then it was belabored! Evelyn was rendered too naïve in many ways which contrasted almost too sharply with her obvious intelligence. Her mother seemed like a caricature of someone, not truly real.
Politics is at play here as the rich are demonized overtly and subtly. They are selfish, self absorbed, self-serving characters, even when they are working for a worthy cause. They preyed on the weak in order to control them and made unrealistic demands, more often than not, expecting complete obedience and deference to their station in life. They were not nice people. The middle class and worker bees appeared more genuine, thoughtful and real in their portrayal by the author!