There are definitely things to like about this book. The set-up is worthy of a great novel--Solomon Kugel moves his family to a rural New York town where he is not only a fish out of water but he also discovers Anne Frank living in his attic. Mr. Auslander clearly has skills as a comic writer and creates some very funny moments: Kugel's encounters with the Messerschmidts (who know about Anne in the attic) and Eve, the real estate broker, stand out, as well as Kugel's time in the workplace where he sells for EnviroSolutions, a recycling company. Kugel's search for what he wants to be his last words is a running theme through the novel that also generates some funny moments and a historical review of some famous last words.
Unfortunately, Mr. Auslander's comic skills are not enough to save Hope: A Tragedy. There are numerous problems here but the biggest is that there is not a single really likeable character in the book. Anne Frank is a foul-mouthed terror, Kugel's mother labors under the fantasy of being a Holocaust survivor, the townspeople around Kugel are all liars, cheats, and/or arsonists. His wife is understandable, at least, but hard to sympathize with since Kugel is the center of the novel.
As for Kugel himself, the reader cannot sympathize with him either. Auslander seems to want to make him sympathetic but his decision-making process is so ridiculous that he is unbelievable. Kugel wants to have hope for the future, for his family, which is admirable. His shrink, Jove (what's in a name?), constantly advises him to forget hope, forget happiness, and just get on with life. But why are having hope and getting on with life mutually exclusive? A few simple decisions--put his mother in a home, go to work on a regular basis, throw Anne out of the attic--and his problems would be under control. But he can't seem to do any of this for reasons that don't seem realistic. Auslander mines some good tragedio-comedy with Kugel putting food in his mother's garden and buying supplies for Anne, but it's not enough. If the comic effect or the ending (which is horrible) were worth the effort, it would be possible to suspend disbelief, but in a novel that has you pulling for Kugel, he ends up being a horrible disappointment.
When it comes right down to it this novel is not a disaster but it, like so many others, is a chance wasted. It feels like too many attempts to force humor by pushing characters to extremes, rather than letting humor and true tragedy arise from strong, believable characters. Mr. Auslander is a writer of obvious talents, but they don't seem to be on best display here.