We each wrote a mini review about what we thought of Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets. Overall, you can tell that all seven of us really enjoyed this book, which is pretty rare, and also made it the perfect first pick. (Don’t worry, there are still points we disagreed on, and heated words have been exchanged debating this book… You’ll see in future posts!) Here you go, the seven of us weigh in on our first pick:
Jess Walter has achieved something very difficult. He has written a novel that is both extremely funny, and incredibly thought provoking. This is a book that had me laughing out loud one moment, and then getting into rage inducing debates about male ego the next. Bravo Mr. Walter, Bravo.
The greatest accomplishment of the book has to be how believable Matt’s reactions are to a completely unbelievable scenario. While it can at times be hard to follow Matt’s decision making logic, his hilarious reactions to the events around him reflect what I imagine would my own fathers response to being busted by the feds for drug possession. — Brad
“What happened to me?” This is the question Matt Prior asks himself post-cheating wife. Post- buying $1100 worth of wood from the man who his wife is cheating with. Post-decision to become a pot dealer in hopes of making enough money to stop his house from foreclosure.
What’s beautiful about this book is that if forces you to think about loss on every level. What if you lost your job, your dream, your home, your family? How far would you go to get it all back, and what do you really need to be happy?
Read it for its humour. Like when Matt goes to a pot-dealer’s house for the first time, and is frisked. “So I take off my shirt and, for some reason, fold it before setting it on the arm of the couch.” In moments like this, Matt and the reader are one in the same; unrehearsed in the etiquette of drug deals, and not quite sure how Matt ended up here in the first place.
Read it for its sudden moments of clarity, like when Matt decides “we don’t need bailouts, rescue packages and public works. We need more poets.”
My review in a nutshell: we need more Jess Walter. — Carolyn
The feeling I had when I finished The Financial Lives of the Poets was of satisfaction. At times it was funny and at times it delved into serious look at modern day issues. It just turned into one of those books that I looked forward to reading every sentence.
The main character, Matt, face an internal struggle that is identifiable to readers and, because of that, is easily likeable and confusing at the same time. But in the end I saw myself in Matt at points, and that made me like the book even more. $9 a gallon for milk? It’s time someone held 7-11 accountable! — Jason
Oh boy, did I laugh. I laughed a laugh that came straight from the belly. And you know what they say about humour: it funniest when it’s true. That’s what makes The Financial Lives of the Poets so friggin’ cool—it’s hilarious but it hits close to home. Walter picks on the anxieties of the modern middle class and by doing so, creates immediately relatable characters (even relatable if you’re only an aspiring member of the middle class like me). In fact, I dare anyone to try and not see at least some of themselves in Matt Prior, an everyman with the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. Infidelity on Facebook, the financial crisis, drug dealing, changing family values, making a living on the internet, the rising price of milk—they all have a place within Matt’s crumbling life. Jess Walter and Matt Prior, though you’ve both made me laugh you’ve also forced me to look at my future and dread it. — Justin .
It’s a rare and lucky thing to find a book that: a) you actually cannot put down (I’ve been known to do the walk and read and did a lot of the walk and read with this one)
b) is funny, poignant and makes you flag a zillion pages
c) makes you think about the kinds of sacrifices your parents have made
d) makes you think about the kinds of sacrifices you would make for your own family
e) makes you read the funny bits aloud to anyone who is around
f) kind of makes you worship the author in a rockstar/moviestar/ can’t believe you get to meet him let alone eat a double down with him
Is it cheesey to say that The Financial Lives of the Poets is all that, plus more? Because it really is. There was so much packed into this book, but in a way that you were actually reading about a normal dad, a normal husband who happened to find himself in bit of a mess. Did he make the best decisions? Maybe not. But I think we’ve all been in a place at one time or another that the smartest decision wasn’t going to help us out at that particular moment. And for Matt Prior, he found himself in one of these gosh darn hard to get out of situations. Jess Walter is a beautiful writer. So beautiful in fact that I started to flag sentences that I liked or wanted to discuss later, then started adding flags to good discussion points, and when I was done, my pages were full of post-it flags. So much to the point of excess that Jess signed my book “To the annotation queen.” There were just so many good bits I didn’t want to forget them. There’s so much to say about this book, and yet all I can manage to say is how much I adored it. — Jessica
I loved The Financial Lives of the Poets as soon as I heard the title. I didn’t bother reading the flaps or asking my colleagues’ opinions; I just trusted that the man who came up with that title could write the heck out of a book. I could write a long and glowing review that would reveal me for the fan girl that I am, but instead I’ll just tell you who this book is for.
This book is for people who are afraid of working in a job they hate forever, who wonder who the hell their spouse is texting so frequently and so secretly, who get the munchies, who could procrastinate even in the face of bankruptcy, who pay too much for milk, who don’t know their parents anymore, and who stay awake late at night thinking about whether or not moms should wear thongs. — Meghan
It’s kind of rare to come across a book (or movie, or tv show) that is hilarious, scandalous, and also manages to make you feel for each and every one of the characters. The Financial Lives of the Poets is just that — a laugh-out-loud funny book, but also one that tugged at my heartstrings. The characters, Matt especially, felt like people I encounter everyday and I could understand their decisions and emotions as if they were mine as well.
What really struck me were the bonds between the family that Walter explores. Matt’s devotion to his sons, father and wife are what really makes this story so memorable. I know the book is supposed to be able a guy at his lowest point, but seriously, if Matt was my dad or husband I’d consider myself pretty lucky. If you read the blurb you probably think I’m crazy, but read the book, you’ll see. — Shannon
If you’ve read The Financial Lives of the Poets we want to know what you think! Loved it? Concerned about moms in thongs too? Did it make you laugh? Cry? Visit 711? Let us know in the Comments.