There's Going to Be Trouble

A Novel

Hardcover

April 9, 2024 | ISBN 9780593448359

Ebook

April 9, 2024 | ISBN 9780593448366

About the Book

A woman is pulled into a love affair with a radical activist, unknowingly echoing her family’s dangerous past and risking the foundations of her future in this electrifying novel.

“An exhilarating novel of star-crossed romances and radical politics, with writing so evocative I swear I could smell the tear gas.”—Nathan Hill, New York Times bestselling author of The Nix and Wellness

Minnow has always tried to lead the life her single father modeled—private, quiet, hardworking, apolitical. So she is rocked when an instinctive decision to help a student makes her the notorious public face of a scandal in the small town where she teaches. As tensions rise, death threats follow, and an overwhelmed Minnow flees to a teaching position in Paris. There, she falls into an exhilarating and all-consuming relationship with Charles, a young Frenchman whose activism has placed him at odds with his powerful family. As Minnow is pulled in to the daring protest Charles and his friends are planning, she unknowingly almost repeats a secret tragedy from her family’s past. Her father wasn’t always the restrained, conservative man he appears today. There are things he has taken great pains to conceal from his family and from the world.

In 1968, Keen is avoiding the Vietnam draft by pursuing a PhD at Harvard. He lives his life in the basement chemistry lab, studiously ignoring the news. But when he unexpectedly falls in love with Olya, a fiery community organizer, he is consumed by her world and loses sight of his own. Learning that his deferment has ended and he’s been drafted, Keen agrees to participate in the latest action that Olya is leading—one with more dangerous and far-reaching consequences than he could have imagined.

Minnow’s and Keen’s intertwining stories take us through the turmoil of the late sixties student movements and into the chaos of the modern world. Exploding with suspense, heart, and intelligence, There’s Going to Be Trouble is a story about revolution, legacy, passionate love, and how we live with the consequences of our darkest secrets.
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Praise for There's Going to Be Trouble

“Spanning from the late ’60s to the present day, from the chemistry labs of Harvard to the streets of Paris, this novel asks prescient questions about personal sacrifice, political responsibility, generational secrets, and the space for love in times of revolution.”Oprah Daily

“Vibrant and juicy.”Kirkus Reviews

“Jen Silverman’s remarkable new book is a thrilling journey through two generations of protest—the riotous streets of modern-day Paris, and the campus sit-ins of the Vietnam era—brilliantly weaving together the stories of two people separated by decades but confronting the same question: What happens when affairs of the heart collide with affairs of the state? This is an exhilarating novel of star-crossed romances and radical politics, with writing so evocative I swear I could smell the tear gas.”—Nathan Hill, author of The Nix and Wellness

“An unbelievably satisfying read—a beautifully paced page-turner with memorably flawed and sympathetic characters, heart-stopping ethical dilemmas, a deeply imagined and absorbing world, and descriptions of activism so painfully accurate you’ll gasp . . . It’s masterful, taut, funny, and sad—full of canny insights on how the political plays out in our personal lives. There's Going to Be Trouble is an absolutely perfect book for this moment, and also one that will stay with you well beyond it.”—V. V. Ganeshananthan, author of Brotherless Night and Love Marriage

“What a juicy and spirited novel Jen Silverman has given us! There’s Going to Be Trouble is crackling with excitement and written with great verve and flair. . . . Truly a dazzling reading experience.”—Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins and All This Could Be Yours

“Atmospheric and profound, Silverman’s novel of defiance and acceptance shimmers with passion, repressed and unbridled.”—Booklist (starred review)
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Excerpt

There's Going to Be Trouble

2018

1


Minerva Hunter stumbled into the protest by accident, a cacophony of voices swerving her off her path. All around her, bundled into jackets and scarves, other people hurried in ones and twos toward that sharp static swarming call. It was mid-November, a Saturday, and it sounded to Minnow’s ears as if all of Paris had descended.

Curious, she followed the others down a narrow side street and then out onto a boulevard. It was densely packed, swollen with bodies. Children perched on their parents’ shoulders, heads swiveling, faces bewildered and pleased. Minnow’s eye picked out a bristling forest of placards hand-printed in French, long swooping banners, and far ahead, tall marionette puppets leaping and jerking above the crowd. The air was bright with excitement, as if everyone had shown up to the same surprise party.

Minnow knew that Paris was a city people mythologized, but she herself hadn’t brought a lot of fantasy to it. She had taken a job here because the job had presented itself at the moment in which her American life dissolved. Had it been located on another planet, she would still have unhesitatingly agreed. But when she’d landed in Paris, in September, the city had been drenched in sunlight, and she had found herself sliding into it like a warm bath. Her first day, she’d walked through the sweeping corridor of trees that marched down the southern side of the Jardin des Plantes, and the beauty had shocked and soothed her. Oh, she’d thought then: Paris. Now, coming across this strange and brilliant crack in the city’s nonchalant quiet, she thought again, Oh, and the surprise curled through her like pleasure.

Minnow pressed in closer and bodies shifted to permit her entrance. She brushed up against puffy down jackets, gleaming leather shoulders, bare arms and yellow construction vests. She recognized these from recent news broadcasts in which the French was spoken too quickly to catch but the day-glo yellow was unmistakable. The protestors were even calling themselves the gilets jaunes, or yellow vests—or maybe they were called that by others, she wasn’t sure. She had seen them on TV more and more of late. The images slid past her, meant nearly nothing.

“Excusez-moi,” Minnow said hesitantly to the nearest puffy jacket. It turned, and she found herself cheek to cheek with a woman in her sixties. “Qu’est-ce qui se passe ici?”

The woman was startled into a smile that grew broader as she took Minnow in. She answered Minnow’s question with her own: “Vous etes d’ou?”

“America,” Minnow said, a little apologetically, and the woman laughed.

“Ah, okay, America.” The woman launched into a fast-paced explanation—something about a Facebook post, a video, a call to gather. Truckers, but also regular citizens, mothers and fathers, the workers. People who were hungry and angry, to whom nobody was listening. The woman made a sweeping gesture, triumphant. The gilets jaunes were gathered not only here but outside of Paris as well: partout, partout! “Vous voyez, Madame!” she cried.

She spoke even faster, and Minnow listened carefully but understood only the disdain, anger, sorrow. The woman interrupted herself when the man beside her started to shout a rhythmic phrase. She picked up the chant with swift efficiency and all at once everyone was shouting it, creating the effect that had drawn Minnow in in the first place, that of total concentrated synchronicity: “Macron demission! Macron demission!”

Glancing around, Minnow gave up estimating how many were present. Even as the crowd shuffled forward, it joined itself to yet another mass of bodies creeping along the avenue ahead, and the confluence forced all movement to a standstill.

Even ground to a halt, the crowd was like a great machine coordinating all its parts. People shouted and chanted and greeted each other. “La Marseillaise” started playing, coming from an unknown direction. After a few moments of bobbing on tiptoe, trying to see over the shoulders in front of her, Minnow grabbed the side of the nearest lamppost and pulled herself up onto the narrow metal lip where the lamp’s wide base narrowed into its pole. Wedging her sneakers into the metal furrows, she clutched the pole tightly to keep from slipping and stared out over the crowd. She realized for the first time that she had emerged onto the Champs-Elysees, the long avenue leading up to the Arc de Triomphe. Turning to look in all directions, she made out the metal-and-glass bulge of the Grand Palais in the distance, and farther still, rising up on the opposite bank, the delicate lace of the Eiffel Tower.

The large marionettes were approaching down the aisle of the avenue, and people moved aside to make room. Lady Liberty beckoned with her long arms, torn bedsheet streamers floating from her wrists. The wind buffeted her, forcing the puppeteer to move side to side, laughing, as he tried to keep her upright. Minnow saw that he was a young man in a leather jacket with the collar turned up, dark hair falling into his eyes in messy tangles. He was almost directly beneath her now, his face upturned. She lowered her chin and as their eyes met unexpectedly, Minnow realized with a jolt that she recognized him. It was Charles Vernier.

Charles was a fellow teacher at the university where Minnow worked. He had only recently graduated from it himself. Minnow reassured herself that this was why the students all loved him; he had been one of them not so long before. It irked her how much they adored him, students who were impassive and unimpressed in her own classes, who intimidated her a little bit with their European sophistication. She imagined that they looked down on her as a boring, nearly middle-aged (no, say it! middle-aged!) American woman who had appeared after their semester had already begun, to cover literature classes they didn’t particularly care for. Charles, on the other hand, exuded cool. He was in the Communication and Media Department, which sounded much more au courant than simple, stuffy English lit. When he taught, he rested one narrow blue-jeaned ass cheek on his desk, long legs sprawled out, and the students hung on his every word. Passing his classroom once, she had seen this—the girls who had packed the front row to bat their eyelashes at him, the boys as well. Her students sat in the back and couldn’t be lured any closer.

The other teachers said Charles’s family name, Vernier, as if Minnow might recognize it. This told her that he was not only wealthy, he was aristocratic. Even worse, Charles had the good fortune to be attractive, which irritated Minnow the most of all his sins. How devoted would his students be, she asked herself, if he were middle-aged, middle-class, and ferociously ugly?

Though she had met him briefly at a faculty welcome dinner and seen him from time to time in the halls, they had never spoken. She had felt as if she’d never registered for him, a state that she was sensitive to, as she was often overlooked: her quietness, her stillness, her way of folding herself into herself so that eyes would go right past her. These things were her fault, she knew, and it had only become worse since the incident at her previous job, after which she had been fired. This was how she thought of it: The Incident; though it was in truth not one event but a chain of them spilling outward into the public eye. Now she caught herself practicing a particular way of standing in which she sank her chin into her shoulders as if trying to disappear entirely. Charles, on the contrary, entered every room to the turning of heads. It surprised her to find him here, mixed in with a cheering crowd, content to be one of many.

His eyes firmly fixed on hers, she saw the exact moment in which he recognized her. His face went blank with surprise and he lost control of Lady Liberty, who soared high, seized by the wind. Minnow felt a rush of embarrassment, as if she had been caught somewhere she didn’t belong. She jumped down from the lamppost into the crowd, her heart pounding. What did it matter, anyway? His opinion meant nothing to her; she didn’t even know him. She turned her back on him and pushed off into the sea of bodies, seeking the safety of anonymity.

About the Author

Jen Silverman
Jen Silverman is a New York-based writer, playwright, and screenwriter. Jen is the author of novel We Play Ourselves, which is short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award, the story collection The Island Dwellers, which was longlisted for a PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut fiction, and the poetry chapbook Bath, selected by Traci Brimhall for Driftwood Press. Additional work has appeared in Vogue, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, LitHub, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. Jen’s plays have been produced across the United States and internationally. Jen is a three-time MacDowell fellow, a member of New Dramatists, and the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Fellowship, the Yale Drama Series Award, and a Playwrights of New York Fellowship. Jen is a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow for Prose and a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow for Drama. Jen also writes for TV and film. More by Jen Silverman
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