Ella Berman’s The Comeback is a post #metoo saga about Grace Turner, a Hollywood star who achieves fame at a very young age, develops the requisite addiction and emotional issues that childhood stars seem often to battle, and then drops suddenly and inexplicably into obscurity. When the story begins Grace is living with her parents in a suburb of LA, but after tensions with her mother bubble over, Grace returns to Hollywood and confronts her estranged husband, her manager and agent, and most namely, Able York, the director who led her to fame and ruin.
Information about Grace is revealed slowly, all through first person narration and often through flashbacks. Yet, it doesn’t take long for the reader to understand that Grace was sexually and emotionally abused by Able. However, it’s not something she talks to anyone in her life about, although most who are close to her, including Able’s wife Emelia, seem to assume it. When Grace’s high school aged sister is faced with her own situation around sexual and emotional abuse, Grace must decide how to both protect her sister and herself.
This book came with high expectations. It’s a pick of #ReadWithJenna (as in Jenna Bush & The Today Show), and was highly anticipated by Oprah, Bustle, Entertainment Weekly, and Marie Claire, among others. The subject matter is very topical, and the objectification and hyper sexualization of young women is something we as a society should have been tackling a long time ago. Reading this novel makes me better understand where stars like Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowen and Ashley Judd are coming from when they talk about the abuse they suffered in Hollywood. But apart from that, The Comeback was a good story that I didn’t want to end.
That’s because the suspense builds from the first page, but not in a scary, psychological thriller sort of way. Instead, the reader becomes emotionally invested in Grace and her struggles, and as her younger sister Esme needs Grace to publicly confront Able, so does the reader. Yet such a confrontation never feels inevitable.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say the story’s payout and Grace’s character arc are flawlessly executed. I strongly recommend The Comeback.