Rich Boy Review
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Rich Boy is a hard book to review without digressing into major discussions, so I’m going to try to keep it simple.

Author Sharon Pomerantz’s highly praised debut novel follows protagonist Robert Vishniak from his boyhood in the 1950s through the financial collapse in October of 1987. Robert, the son of a postal worker father and school crossing guard mother, was raised in a working-class* Jewish neighborhood in Philadelphia. He’s handsome and charming, and he knows how to get the girls. Through ambition, hard work, determination, and a pushy mother, he scores a scholarship to Tufts University in Boston, where he meets a bunch of rich kids—of which, of course, he is not one. Robert has to work washing dishes to keep his scholarship, and he doesn’t have money to party with, but he works hard and eventually graduates from law school. Along his path in life, Robert has relationships with three women, two of whom happen to come from money. Through these relationships, he experiences tragedy, good fortune, heartache, and connections. Life changes for Robert—but for better or worse?

Pomerantz captures the culture of the decades: the Vietnam War, the protests, Nixon, the drug culture, the music, the stock market. While the characters can be a little flat, they can also be described as true to life, at least from Robert Vishniak’s point of view (and mine, too, as the daughter of a postal worker from a working-class background and a product of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s).

You know that an author does his or her job in writing a book when the story evokes memories, feelings, or impressions of reality. Does it make you happy, sad, angry? Do you find yourself arguing with what you’re reading? Are you formulating questions in your mind as you read? Do you find you want to discuss this book with someone? All of the above? Then it’s a good book—and Rich Boy fits the criteria.

As you read, you may find yourself asking: Did Robert hook up with rich women to use them for their money? Who was using whom, if at all? Did Robert do anything to earn his own way? Is it wrong to want a better life? I found myself grappling with the messages (I won’t use the word “morals”) that the book may or may not been conveying.

Book clubs may find Rich Boy a good pick. As for me, I would love to hear opinions from readers on both sides: the privileged and the working class.

Rich Boy may not be explosively spectacular or earth-shattering, but it is certainly evocative and well worth the read.


*I will note that several descriptions of the book describe Robert and his family as “poor.” If he was poor, then I was raised in abject poverty. And if I was raised in abject poverty, then this is news to me.

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