Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lottery winners

In writing a completely different post about this book, I realized I'd read other books about lottery winners. This is my favorite, though...

The Rich Part of Life by Jim Kokoris

Genre General fiction

How it starts Teddy's mother played the lottery for years before she was killed in a car accident. On a mournful whim, Teddy's father plays her lottery numbers - and wins $190 million. Eleven-year-old Teddy starts planning out what he wants to buy, beginning with two mountain bikes for himself and one for five-year-old Tommy, and a farm in Wisconsin.

General premise Teddy's father, a civil war historian, hasn't yet recovered from his wife's death, so Teddy takes care of little Tommy and keeps an eye on his dad. When they win the lottery, in swoop his uncle (a director of failed vampire movies), and his great-aunt (who constantly exclaims in Greek even though she's lived her entire life in Chicago). Everyone in the small town wants a share of the money. Since his father isn't around much, Teddy gets to relay the requests, including those from a classmate who regularly writes his African penpal to ask for money; the school officials who want a new furnace; and the hot woman across the street, whose son has warned Teddy that if their parents sleep together, he's going to kick Teddy's ass.

Page 12 Quote

"When did your wife die?" a reporter asked.
"A year ago. A year ago today actually. Yes, today."
"She's up in heaven though," Tommy said. "She's up in heaven and we're going to to pay some money to get her to come back."

Lottery winners

I've known people who won the diversity lottery, but not millions in cash - not that I can think of, anyway. Apparently more lottery winners are back in debt in a few years than go on to live a long life of luxury. This American Life had a piece about a guy whose job was buying the remaining annual payments off broke lottery winners so they could pay their current bills.

The Rich Part of Life isn't exactly a rags-to-riches story, and the lottery is mostly a catalyst for change. Teddy's dad is the only one in town unaffected by the money, since, except for his wife's death, he already has the life he wants. Because his father can't - or won't - pay attention, Teddy gets a lot of the attention his dad should be dealing with: the confusion (and scorn) because they haven't bought anything extravagant, the concerned questions when little Tommy starts acting up in school, and the plethora of outrageous requests that is the daily life of lottery winners.

I'll write about child narrators in a different post, because that's a fascinating part of this book and where the constant humor comes from.

Pot of Gold by Judith Michael
Genre: single title romance? Romantic suspense?

I haven't read Pot of Gold in years, but it also revolves around an introvert whose lottery win upends her life. Claire's biggest problem isn't managing the money or the requests for it, but the rich parasites who want to prey on her and lure in her gorgeous, underage daughter with fame, fashion and drugs.

Claire is a thirty-four-year-old woman, and not particularly stunning or take-charge. Kind of rare in this golden age of aggressive YA fiction. How often do you see a fully-dressed adult woman (including her face! Sort of) on a fiction cover these days?

Burn by Linda Howard
Genre: romantic suspense

Jenner has finally gotten used to her massive lottery win. But a vacation with her best friend turns into a nightmare when they're taken hostage by a group that doesn't seem interested in money.

Leaving aside the Stockholm Syndrome aspects, this was an interesting experience for me. I read a lot about finance in school and beyond. Seeing the same information over and over in articles and web clips always made me wonder if people really needed to hear such basic things about accounting and debt. Near the beginning of Burn, Jenner's fumbling with a phone book, trying to figure out under what she should look up a money manager. The scene was masterfully set up, and eye-opening. More knowledge is available to us now than at any other time in history. But only for those with access to it.

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