Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-12-22
- Reviewer: Staff
The nature of family bonds and wealth are at the heart of this spellbinding tale from Marche (Love and the Mess We’re In). Jamie Cabot grew up in isolated northern Alberta, Canada, where his parents work for the elusive and enigmatic Wylie family, one of the richest business dynasties in the world. When Ben Wylie, an extremely wealthy man, is found naked and dead in the frigid Alberta snow, Jamie’s curiosity spikes, and he becomes determined to uncover the secret behind the Wylie family. From the Canadian hinterlands to New York City society life, Jamie seeks contact with the Wylies. Despite the novel’s account of their dramatic accumulation of a peerless fortune, the Wylies remain mysterious—not only to Jamie and to the public, but also to one another. No word is out of place in this taut multigenerational tale, which takes some enjoyable supernatural turns—readers will be just as driven as Jamie to discover the mystery at the heart of the Wylie’s legacy. Agent: P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Feb.)
For those who argue that global capitalism is in the midst of a second Gilded Age, Canadian novelist Stephen Marche’s second novel (after Raymond and Hannah) offers an intriguing genre-crossing allegory for the rapacity and relentlessness of that economic philosophy.
Marche’s narrator, Jamie Cabot, a struggling New York freelance journalist, channels Nick Carraway in this story of the Wylies, the eighth-richest family in the world, whose male members just happen to be werewolves. From his humble beginnings as the son of an immigrant barber in a small mill town near Pittsburgh, Dale Wylie launches a radio station in the Depression-era Midwest that eventually becomes a globe-spanning media conglomerate. The novel follows the family through the next two generations, climaxing in the death of Dale’s grandson Ben, the discovery of whose frozen body in northern Alberta opens the story.
In his portrayal of the Wylie men (and Ben’s adopted Chinese sister, Poppy), Marche conveys the ambivalence that surrounds the accumulation of a fortune so vast it “enables the fulfillment that eludes ordinary life.” Whether it’s Dale acquiring a British media empire or his son George entering the Chinese market on the eve of its emergence as an economic superpower, the preternatural skill of the Wylie men in creating a life of “fluid, effortless expansion” is matched only by their determination to live in near obscurity.
Though he no doubt will be delighted if this novel is a popular success, Marche isn’t simply another literary novelist who’s decided to season his work with some commercial flourishes. His brief digressions into a psychiatric case study of “lycanthropy as a narcissistic delusion” or of the history of accounts of werewolves, dating back to The Epic of Gilgamesh nearly 4,000 years ago, show a serious engagement with that theme and lend texture to the story.
“The rich should be different from you and me but they’re not,” Jamie Cabot observes, turning F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous formulation on its head. This convincing portrait of how money can satisfy material wants without slaking emotional hunger tells a tale that cautions while it entertains.