Review: “The Financial Lives of the Poets” by Jess Walter

January 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm , by Alyce Wilson

The Financial Lives of the PoetsThe Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In these days of the Great Repression, readers seek escapism: fantasy, romance and sparkling vampires. Jess Walter’s book, by contrast, is an unblinking look at the reality of many Americans. The protagonist, Matt Prior, is about to lose his house and possibly his emotionally estranged wife. Matt is a poor communicator when it comes to his family, so he bears these burdens alone. Obsessed with such thoughts, he goes to the convenience store to buy milk and walks right into a youth-filled world of drugs and bad decisions.

While the initial pages of the book are often entertaining, like a well-written blogger grousing about his day, as the book slogs on, the fun dissipates, as Matt struggles with the weight of his poor decisions. At this point, I found myself saying, “Why am I reading this?” If I had been less of a completist, I would have certainly put it down. In fact, I almost wish I had, given the way the resolution peters out, with an ending as dissatisfying as the so-called economic recovery has been for many families.

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