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The more I read and follow other people's reviews, the more I realize a funny thing; people can have almost exactly the same taste in books you do, but have a completely difference response to them. That's what makes life interesting - in fact, that's what makes reading reviews interesting.
Several people I follow have read and reviewed this book now, and they have commented on how funny it was. There absolutely was a lot of humor in the book, and it did make me chuckle on a regular basis; but to me, this book was a really depressing story with funny parts - not a funny story with depressing parts. That ends up being a significant difference.
Jess Walter is an extremely talented writer, and also did a fantastic job on his own narration. This fact however only exacerbated for me how incredibly effective he was in making me deeply depressed.
As the book summary explains, the main character in this novel has lost his job, is in the process of loosing his wife and his house, and is trying to reverse everything that is going so wrong in his life. Most of the characters he meets along the way are also deeply unhappy, and because the writing is so effective, and the general situation he's in (laid off, under water on his mortgage, strains on the marriage) is so familiar in the real world right now, it was a really bleak picture.
The final third of the book gets more and more depressing, until the author abandons his attempt at levity, and just hunkers down to bring us to a sober conclusion. The storytelling was so good during this third that I kept feeling like more heavy bricks were being placed on my shoulders, to the point where I was dying to get to the end because I couldn't take much more.
I would have loved to read the book that some of the other reviewers did; the book that was just funny. That being said, it's very possible that YOU will read the book they read - so take this review with a grain of salt. That's the beauty of all these reviews; seeing how we all experience each story differently.
32 of 35 people found this review helpful
I started The Financial Lives of the Poets because I loved Jess Walter's latest novel, Beautiful Ruins, so much. Matt Prior is in the middle of a mid-life crisis, which through his own choices, rapidly escalates to a mid-life catastrophe. He quits his job as a newspaper financial reporter to create poetfolio, a web site that combines investment advice and poetry. That goes over as well as a realistic person might predict, but it's also just the tip of the iceberg. Matt's wife is having a text/Facebook/in person affair with a guy from Lumberland after she has filled their garage with crap from eBay and failed to resell it, and his senile father has to move in after losing everything to a stripper. Matt is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and foreclosure, when he meets Skeet and Jamie one night at the local 7-11. They introduce him to designer marijuana, and Matt gets the brilliant idea to cash in his miniscule 401(k) and use the proceeds to buy and sell marijuana. This is how he will dig himself out of his financial chasm, but this plan also goes as well as a rational person might predict.
Matt is an interesting protagonist, very well-written by Walter. One of the most interesting things about him is that he seems to be quite aware of the financial, emotional, and bureaucratic messes that he (and our society) have made, yet he goes on making increasingly desperate decisions. Walter doesn't write Matt as hapless, so we cheer for his indomitability while shaking our heads at his incompetence. Ordinarily a character like this might irritate me, but Jess Walter's amazing writing made this a pleasure to read. Matt does learn a lesson that we should all take notice of: "The edge is so close to where we live."
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I picked this book because I really enjoyed Beautiful Ruins. However I found this story tedious, and almost gave up on it. I had a hard time feeling much sympathy for the main character, who is so self absorbed and cynical I found it hard to feel invested in his situation. The story also relies on some cliches to get through to the end. It is well narrated by the author so that kept me going.