RICH BOY is exactly the kind of novel I look for but rarely find. Sharon Pomerantz has wowed me to the Nth degree with her sweeping saga of a working-class Jewish family living in Philadelphia.
Robert Vishniak is born a handsome guy. Looks do count for plenty in this world. As he finds out early on. Family members fawn over him; strangers stop to ooh and aah and smile at him. Robert’s smothering mother accounts for much of the reasoning behind getting out of the house. When he earns a scholarship to Tufts University, he can’t wait to get away from his family and his poor beginnings. But I always say be careful what you wish for.
RICH BOY is a tome, and at 528 pages I thought it might be too big a book for a first time author, and maybe even too much story for me. I quickly slowed my reading pace to accommodate my comprehension. This story is so good I did not want to miss a thing.
I’ve heard the novel likened to Gatsby. Mention has been made of Bernie Madoff and that era. That all works for me. Pomerantz has done a bang- up job with the characters. She has nailed the voice of her male protagonist, Robert. And done it so well that I find it amazing. Just masterful!
When Robert finally escapes to Tufts University, he finds a completely new world he could not have even dreamed of. People eat differently, live differently, think differently, dress differently, and have stuff he never knew he needed. We delve deeply into the world of the unbelievably rich.How this affects the rest of Robert’s life, is the basis for this novel.
Robert’s first room mate plays an integral part in this story. Sanford Trace is known as Tracey through the story. My first encounter with Tracey didn’t prepare me for the scope that his presence would provide in Robert’s life. I love the way Pomerantz laid the ground work here, completely keeping me in suspense about Tracey’s secrets. There is a small group of young men who hang out together, and, Robert is slowly eased in with this crowd; those who are from an entirely different world. Wealth isn’t even a big enough word.
As Robert’s looks unlock the doors to gorgeous, rich women you can’t help but ask yourself, will this cure what ails him? Can money literally buy happiness?
We do keep in touch with Robert’s family back in Philly. Some things never change. The middle class family is still plugging away. Robert’s brother eventually escapes the clutches as well. But he doesn’t have the same ambitions. He’s not good looking. He’s not on the same path. But, still, they manage to hook up and both their lives change immensely.
I couldn’t help but wonder as I closed the book, can we go home again?
I loved this book. I so look forward to Sharon Pomerantz’s next book.