In this creative retelling of a true story, Kelley writes of her family’s international financial crisis.
In the early 1970s, the author, her husband, Jack, and their four daughters moved from Greenwich, Connecticut, to Brazil. Jack had recently lost his broadcasting job, and his former employers were cruelly keeping him out of the industry. He met a tenacious yet mysterious man named Jerry Green and seized an opportunity to join his business ventures, which included gold mining, logging, shrimping and selling beef. Jerry’s ideas were numerous, as were his connections; according to the author, he was a war hero with ties to the CIA, Brazilian officials and possibly the mob. After Jerry took Jack on a tour to see the enterprises firsthand, Jack agreed to invest $40,000—without Marilyn’s knowledge. Jerry helped Jack find an American school in Rio de Janeiro for his oldest daughters, Lynne and Evan. The girls found fun and freedom in Brazil while their mother, back in Connecticut, packed up the family’s belongings and prepared to sell their house. Meanwhile, Jerry was frequently out of touch, causing Jack to worry as he prepared to resettle his family and solidify his gold-trading prospects. But soon after Marilyn and the youngest girls, Diane and Heather, came to Rio, Jerry’s shadiness came to light. It turned out that he wasn’t planning to share any profits—or give the Kelleys their money back. The Kelleys pursued several avenues, including alerting the Brazilian authorities and the FBI; they even got in touch with Brazilian gangsters who wanted to see Jerry dead. Finally, they found an unexpected method of retribution. This harrowing tale of a family determined to survive in a new country offers exciting plane rides, gripping chases and a glimpse into international relations in the 1970s. Kelley tells the story through each family member’s perspective, and although readers may find Jerry’s shadiness immediately apparent, it’s also made clear that Jack needed a way to support his family and that Jerry shared information that made him seem trustworthy. The author also shows the beauty and fierceness of Brazil (“Rolling waves, like a fierce battalion of oncoming soldiers, pounded the sand with roaring force”) as she and her husband worked to keep their family afloat.
An engaging, true story of one family’s turmoil in 1970s Brazil.