A provocative and hilarious satire of love, sex, money, and politics in our new gilded age—the long-awaited first novel from the the acclaimed author of Sam the Cat
Every summer, a once-sort-of-famous middle-aged cartoonist named Rich Fischer leaves his wife and two kids behind to teach a class at a weeklong arts conference in a charming New England beachside town. It’s a place where, every year, students—nature poets and driftwood sculptors, widowed seniors, teenagers away from home for the first time—show up to study with an esteemed faculty made up of prizewinning playwrights, actors, and historians; drunkards and perverts; members of the cultural elite; unknown nobodies, midlist somebodies, and legitimate stars—a place where drum circles happen on the beach at midnight, clothing optional. One of the attendees is a forty-one-year-old painting student named Amy O’Donnell. Amy is a mother of three, unhappily married to a brutish Wall Street titan who runs a multibillion-dollar investment fund and commutes to work via helicopter. Rich and Amy met at the conference a year ago, shared a moment of passion, then spent the winter exchanging inappropriate texts and emails and counting the days until they could see each other again. Now they’re back.
Once more, Rich finds himself, in this seaside paradise, worrying about his family’s nights without him and trying not to think about his book, now out of print, or his existence as an illustrator at a glossy magazine about to go under, or his back taxes, or the shameless shenanigans of his colleagues at this summer make-out festival, or his own very real desire for love and human contact. He can’t decide whether Amy is going to rescue or destroy him.
Who Is Rich? is a warped and exhilarating tale of love and adultery, a study in midlife alienation, erotic pleasure, envy, and bitterness in the new gilded age that goes far beyond humor and satire to address deeper questions: of family, monogamy, the intoxicating beauty of children, and the challenging interdependence of two soulful, sensitive creatures in a confusing domestic alliance.
Advance praise for Who Is Rich?
“It’s amazing to wait so long for a book, and for it to be everything you wanted. The most singular quality of Matthew Klam’s writing is how alive it is. I loved every page of this book. It got into my bloodstream—and kind of destroyed me.”—Curtis Sittenfeld
“What a thrill to experience the fusion of Matthew Klam’s fierce, kinetic prose with the mysteries of fatherhood and domesticity. Who Is Rich? is an electric amalgam of frustration and tenderness, wonder and rebellion: a paean to the obliterating power of parental love.”—Jennifer Egan
“I’ve been eagerly awaiting another book by Matthew Klam—and here it is, and it’s a stunner. This, his first novel, is funny, dark, big, and bold. I read it straight through, with great pleasure and awe at all he knows about art, money, family, sex, kids, mortality, and shame. Not to be missed.”—Meg Wolitzer
“By turns fierce, disturbing, and outright hilarious, Who Is Rich? is much more than a novel of midlife crisis; it’s a frank exploration of what it feels like to struggle as an artist and a man. Klam writes like a surgeon, with the sharpest of scalpels, and cuts to the bone.”—Jonathan Tropper
“I just finished Matthew Klam’s Who Is Rich? and I seriously, deeply love this book.”—Michael Cunningham
This is not a book to read when you’re already having a bad day because the tone is a bit of a mood killer. It’s a slow pace with few light moments, a bit of humor and a whole lot of drama.
In some ways it’s a commentary on modern American life. People trapped in relationships they no longer seem to want but won’t leave due to finances, kids, societal pressures, etc. Affairs that occur because people can’t just leave. Too much money, not enough. No sex, rare sex or just not great sex. Is monogamy doomed? Why do people get married or have kids when it seems to come with so many problems? When do we grow out of our dreams or do we ever? It’s rare these days I dive into a piece of fiction that has me asking existential questions as I flip pages. This book definitely made me view my own life through a different lens and examine my own opinions and biases.
Klam digs deep in the character development area refusing to settle for stereotypes even as he creates mirrors of the human condition. It’s as if he hopes we’ll see something of ourselves in these broken and flawed people in order to force us to ask the uncomfortable questions.
It’s not exactly something you’d pick up to read on the beach or when you’re just trying to kill time but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t delve into it; even your brain is a muscle that needs flexing to stay active.
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing for allowing me to review this book.
*synopsis and pic from netgalley.com
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