‘Everything’s Fine’: A Brilliantly Uncomfortable Look at Relationships Across the Political Aisle

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everythings fine cecilia rabess
cover: simon & schuster; background: Jose A. Bernat Bacete/getty images

A Black woman and a white man attempt to reconcile their undeniable chemistry with their vastly different worldviews in Everything’s Fine, a thought-provoking, unsettling and whip-smart debut novel by Cecilia Rabess, whose nonfiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, Fast Company and more.

Jess and Josh first meet in college the day Obama is elected president. Jess, a Black woman from Nebraska, is thrilled; Josh, a white man from Greenwich, Connecticut, expresses concern for the economy (he’s one of those fiscal conservatives). The two go on to spar in class and at parties about affirmative action, identity politics and more, but all will be fine after graduation, right? That’s what Jess thinks, until she finds herself on the same floor at Goldman Sachs with Josh.

Much to her surprise, Josh ends up being an ally to Jess, who’s the only Black person on their team, and the two start to turn a corner, becoming close friends, who respect and challenge each other intellectually. Soon enough, their romantic chemistry is undeniable and their friendship turns into a passionate relationship.

But as the 2016 presidential election approaches and Trump’s hateful rhetoric—and even more hateful supporters—becomes unavoidable, Jess and Josh realize they can’t skate by on raw sexual chemistry alone; they’re two very different people with very different ways of navigating the world. Things come to a head when Jess finds a red MAGA hat in their apartment (an apparent joke, but still), and Josh can’t understand why she’s so upset. “It’s just a hat,” he insists, but Jess tries to explain why it’s so much more. “But it’s not just a hat. It makes Jess think of racism and hatred and systemic inequality, and the Ku Klux Klan, and plantation-wedding Pinterest boards, and lynchings, and George Zimmerman, and the Central Park Five…” (Despite being an inarguably smart guy, Josh is someone you want to scream at for not getting it.)

The beauty of Jess and Josh is that they feel incredibly real. (Specifically Josh, who will be familiar to anyone who went to college with that “To play devil’s advocate…” type.) Rabess’s writing is also darkly funny. When Jess’s friend tells her that his parents, who are the “pray-the-gay-away type,” will vote for Trump, “Jess frowns. ‘But I thought your parents were cool. Weren’t they here in April? I thought you took them to Carbone.’”

Everything’s Fine is at turns an electric romance and a critical examination of white privilege, class consciousness and the argument over whether it’s better in life to be happy or right. (Hint: We don’t get a firm answer on that last one.)

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...