When a drug deal goes horribly wrong - and a suitcase (which may or may not contain a quarter of a million dollars) disappears - the dealer and his addicted client become entangled in one another's lives in a series of strange events.
Frumkin’s technique of replaying scenes from multiple perspectives effectively gives readers a 360-degree view of how something happened. Most importantly, however, it is useful for exploring the totality of how her characters’ actions affect those around them, and how each character lives with it. The scope of The Comedown is such that everyone is in close proximity to a tragedy at all times. Frumkin’s juxtaposition makes it clear that what these characters do to one another in the book is both awful and perfectly human. The contrast born out of The Comedown’s structure also makes room for Frumkin to explore her characters’ wide-ranging sociopolitical circumstances. The differences are generational, racial, cultural, and economic, and she writes clearly on how their existence and collisions shape the lives of her characters ... At its core, the book is about relationships and the joy and pain they bring. In that realm, and others, it’s a resounding success.
With a tapestry which brings to mind a nineteenth-century naturalist novel, The Comedown supplies a dozen hypotheses on how children become their eventual adult selves, isolating the inputs which produce divergence among even siblings and spouses ... While a few of The Comedown’s characters exhibit a saccharine quaintness ostensibly ill-suited for their desperation, the sprightly pacing means their deep backgrounds are executed in brief snapshots, and Frumkin manages to sympathize with them without needing to occupy them herself ... Frumkin’s race writing in The Comedown is perceptive and modulated. Both the Jewish and black families are recognizable yet atypical, and the intersection of white guilt with sexual fulfillment makes for some of the book’s most compelling, if delicate, passages ... The Comedown’s non-chronological narrative can make for rough going early on, but as Frumkin leaves no heartstring untugged, it makes the exposition suspenseful in itself. If it’s a trick, it’s a brilliant and thrilling one, with each pivot and retread diligently plotted ... The Comedown is a romp which never loses track of its compassion, messy in a charismatic, lifelike way, a giant, leaping wash of twentieth and twenty-first century Americana which never lapses into cliche. Frumkin’s characters linger long after the final page, such that finishing the book is a comedown of its own.
Each chapter is dedicated to a single character who, in most cases, will not be the primary focus again. This structural gambit unfortunately results in a compartmentalized narrative. All 13 protagonists get their own chapter, with only one or two repeats. And because the chapters are structured like character sketches, every 15 or 20 pages the reader must reset and make mental space for a new set of personality quirks and childhood memories. As a result, much of the novel is given over to flashbacks and exposition. Each chapter demands the escape velocity of a short story ... All of her characters are rendered with depth, portrayed with amusement and affection. Frumkin’s witty, third-person voice is as comfortable with the drug-dealing Reggie Marshall as it is his Melville scholar wife, Tasha ... It is a fundamentally comic novel (and a very funny one at that).