Poor boy goes rich. Such is the premise of “Rich Boy”.
Robert Vishniak lives in Oxford Circle, on the 2100 block of Disston Street in Northeast Philadelphia, a predominantly Jewish blue collar neighborhood. Robert and his brother Barry watch as their father, a postal worker with a second job, loses one leg and then the other to gangrene – and then dies. Their mother, Stacia, develops Bells Palsy and her face contorts oppositionally – one side motionless, the other side fixed in a perpetual frown as she agonizes daily over money – and not having any. Robert, the eldest son and exceptionally handsome, works from an early age at odd jobs to please Stacia, but they remain poor and Stacia remains unhappy, unfulfilled and dissatisfied.
Robert chooses to attend Tufts University in Boston because it offers him the best financial aid package. Women throw themselves at him like the New York Yankees. His roommate at Tufts, is Tracey (Sanford Trace III). Trace’s friends, Mark Pascal, Benoit Cates and Van Dorn are rich and spoiled, and Robert soon learns that if he goes down to the trash bin, he can retrieve all the custom shirts that Trace throws down the trash chute as soon as he wears them once. Trace, gay, falls deeply in love with Robert and takes him under his wing. And Robert learns quickly how to appear posh, sophisticated and unhappy.
The distinctions waver in this rather tedious novel that frames class and social politics within the 1960s – 1980s timeframe. Robert and Barry’s lust for money – and success in achieving it – run polar opposite to Trace, Cates and Pascal, who keep trying to hide their moneyed backgrounds.
Unfortunately unlike the “Thorn Birds” the predictability of this novel, while not without its moments, flash framed me into a negative. The camera shutter froze seconds too long, and the picture arrived blurry and unfocused.
If you like long novels about ethnicity, poor versus rich, rich versus wealthy, and have much patience for barely intricate family dynamics, you’ll love “Rich Boy.” This reviewer found it brilliantly packaged, with a red silk bow tied around, and when I opened it I kept seeking the surprise. Unlike “The Great Gatsby” (the jacket blurb from Peter Ho Davies compared it to Gatsby) I yawned my way through with no mystical moments or enduring quotes to bestow.
Well written prose wraps this novel around, and I am sure that it is a gift to some. I felt disappointed that perfect MFA technique sequestered a plot that I have read a million times before. On the good side, Sharon Pomerantz structures a sentence powerfully and perfectly. However, the paragraphs, chapters and sheer length of the novel presented a helpless morass of detail best left in the box.
I had written a synopsis of the plot; and was going to present it here, but I just didn’t have the energy after reading the book.
Immaculate technique from a powerful writer who just became too long winded. Worth reading if you love great writing; Ms. Pomerantz is a pro – but make sure you have a cup of caffeine beside the bed to see you through.
Rich Boy is available for purchase at Amazon.com and other book sellers nationwide.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
Thank you to Hachette Book Group for providing a copy for this book review. We were in no way compensated and all opinions are strictly our own.
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