A boy born into one of New York’s wealthiest families confronts the challenges of poverty and his relative’s own moral failings in McGarey’s expansive debut novel set in the 1970s.
His family’s swift fall from grace shocks 12-year-old William Kane Jr. Triggered by his parents’ divorce, and hastened by the toxic influences of addiction and greed, a change to the family trust leaves the clan penniless and stuck in the desert city of Scottsdale, Arizona. After growing up surrounded by a steady stream of nannies, butlers, and maids, WK is now tasked with attending public school while working full time to help pay the bills and worrying about the future (“When will my life be good again?”). The youngster shoulders the new responsibilities without complaint, but in doing so, he becomes privy to the factors propelling his family’s destruction. Will his mother provide the emotional support her children so badly need (“She was terrified by the prospect of life without a point and without a party”)? Can his father stay sober long enough to “salvage a life gone bad?” And if WK’s sister Sumner succeeds in marrying the son of a wealthy media magnate, will the union return the Kane family to the ranks of New York’s elite, or tear them forever apart? Tucked throughout McGarey’s prose are clues that WK’s coming-of-age tale will be an epic one, and the novelist makes good on that promise. Smartly written, with rich subplots layered throughout, the author succeeds in drafting both a memorable protagonist and a riveting legal thriller. While the book’s early chapters deliciously dissect the social interactions of the uber-wealthy, its final pages focus on the unraveling of a financial fraud. Both elements are enriched by McGarey’s keen eye for detail. But the author’s affection for his plucky protagonist is perhaps too unyielding, allowing readers little room to discover the character for themselves. When WK is tested—whether by a schoolyard bully or his mother’s unbending expectations—instead of allowing the boy’s actions to speak for themselves, McGarey always has the last word.
A well-crafted testament to the powers of resilience and redemption.