The Comeback by Ella Berman
The pandemic keeps me at home, but it’s the fires raging across the west coast that force me to stay indoors. I select books that keep me from feeling like every day is groundhog day. I read books to temporarily escape the disasters within the disasters within the disasters. It’s practically fall now. 2020 creeps past us in a figurative and literal haze.
So let’s time-travel to an (only) slightly simpler time. We don’t go too far. We back up by one year, when our collective consciousness, shamefully, had not yet grappled with racial injustice; when the news cycle was not yet littered with Covid-19 death counts; and when watching The Kardashians was seen as nothing more than mindless, yet relatively harmless reality tv salad. Let’s go back, just for the duration of Ella Berman’s novel “The Comeback”, to a time when #metoo was at the forefront of our twitter feeds.
2017-2019 was an era when American society was faced with a different kind of reckoning and began the process of cleansing itself from deeply rooted misogyny in media and entertainment. Today in 2020, that movement seems like a distant memory, so I was deeply grateful when Berman coaxed it back into my consciousness and decided to write a fiction novel about it. I understand that she shaped this narrative before disgraced movie mogul and sexual predator/rapist Harvey Weinstein was finally taken down by several Hollywood actresses coming forward, so it’s all the more interesting to me that this book is coming out AFTER the (first?) peak of the movement. The timing of its inception as well as of its release feel right to me. We are ready to talk about it in genre fiction and in literature.
“The Comeback” is about a former teen actor named Grace Turner, who left the industry at the height of her career and is now forced to present her abuser, a powerful director, with a Lifetime Achievement award. We go back in time and watch how the events of the past unfold. We are forced to walk in her shoes, painful stilettos really. For those of you who have never been in the position of being a gaslighted, emotionally abused, sexualized-before-its-possible-to-consent survivor, this will give you an understanding of what it means to exist in a vacuum where you feel powerless. For the many of us – myself included – who have been on the receiving end of such abuse, you will see yourself and relate. But you won’t see yourself only as a victim. You will witness what it takes to heal. You will begin to admit not only your shortcomings but also your strengths. But, and this is an important “but”, it won’t come through a preachy self-help book. It comes via entertainment, not unlike what the Kardashians offer to us on TV. Read this book if you want to learn something about what it means to be a woman. Read this book if you already know what it means to be a woman, and want to feel seen and heard.