Monday, October 5, 2009
By Yona Zeldis McDonough
Published September 2009 by Downtown Press
Thanks to Sarah Reidy and Pocket Books Blog Tours for including me in the blog tour for Yona Zeldis McDonough's latest book, "Breaking The Bank."
Mia Saul is a recently divorced mother of ten-year-old Eden who has recently lost her job and has had to move to a less than desirable neighborhood in Brooklyn. It's a Murphy's Law kind of exsistence for Mia--it is can go wrong, it will. Her daughter is wrecking all kinds of havoc at school in her attempt to deal with her parents' divorce, her drug-dealing neighbor kills another neighbor's dog right in front of Eden and her relationship with her once close brother is frayed. Then one evening she stops by a local ATM machine to take out $100 for groceries--but the machine gives her $200 without deducting the extra money from her account. Feeling like something good as finally happened in her life, Mia says nothing and waits to see if there will be any kind of repercussion. When there's not, she tries the machine again...and again. And it seems like her luck as finally changed. She's finally able to provide for her daughter and to buy some of the things she needs. She even decides to start using some of the money to do good things for others. But even as she is dealing with the extra money and a possible new boyfriend, trouble seems to find Mia. Eden's dad starts to question Mia's ability as a mother, Mia's family confronts her, and suddenly the police are wanting to know where all of that money is coming from. Mia starts to wonder if someone, somewhere is trying to teach her a lesson about what is important and what isn't.
"Breaking the Bank" is, at its core, chick-lit. And if you've been following my blog, you'll know that chick-lit and not my usual cup of tea, although I will throw one into the mix ever now and then as a kind of guilty pleasure. McDonough is certainly a gifted writer. On more than one occasion, I had to grab a dictionary to look up a word, something that rarely happens to me when reading this type of story. And she brings John Keats and his great love, Fanny Brawne right into the story. The relationship between Mia and Eden is so true to life. And Eden's behavior, in light of her parents' split, is very believable.
Much less believable, for me, was Mia's reaction to her financial windfall. I had a hard time, to be honest, with the whole idea of an ATM that magically gives someone extra money every time she uses it but never to anyone else. And I found Mia's reaction to this really odd. Also, Mia's reaction to her family's interventions seemed unrealistic to me. Obviously she couldn't tell them anything about the machine but she never really stood up for herself; she just became confrontational.
The story does build and there is a sense of tension as the reader tries to figure out how Mia is possibly going to get out of this. Which, let's face it, we know she will. Mia's relationship with her brother, mother and Eden's father are all resolved in a very satisfying way. And you will find yourself cheering for Mia as she struggles to raise her daughter and find her way.
Gaby, at Starting Fresh, is a big fan of this book. Read her review here. For an interview with McDonough, visit Lori at Psychotic State.