A brisk second effort from Lasser (Battle Creek, 1999) that gets behind the scenes on Wall Street.
Barry Schwartz, like many New Yorkers, was born far from Manhattan and didn’t move there for the scenery. “I don’t want to lay siege to the riches of Wall Street,” he admits. “I want to make a frontal assault.” A self-confessed “ski bum,” Barry had been perfectly content living in a prefab shack in Colorado (where he could ski 150 days a year)—until his wife Rachel had a second child and Barry discovered what “debt” really meant. So he packed himself and family off east and landed a job downtown selling US treasury bonds. There are two things to understand about Wall Street. First, the salaries are merely tokens of esteem—everyone really works for the year-end bonus, awarded in proportion to one’s annual sales. Second, it’s a very small place, where everyone knows everyone else. Barry’s boss, Court Harvey, went to the same Michigan high school as Barry (a few years ahead of him), and the lovely government securities trader Gretchen Barnes knew Barry at Dartmouth. This connection becomes helpful when Court falls for Gretchen and uses Barry to introduce him. In fact, it leads indirectly to Barry’s promotion, which leads to another promotion, which leads—well, you get the idea. But there are clouds on the horizon. Barry’s ne’er-do-well brother Ben has begun to hit him up for money, Rachel and the kids complain that they hardly ever see him, and Gretchen confesses she hates Court and has a crush on Barry. Eventually Rachel takes the kids and moves back to Colorado, leaving Barry on his own with the million-dollar question: What do you really need to be happy in life? On Wall Street, of course, that’s a no-brainer—but not when Rachel’s in Colorado.
Nicely plotted and well drawn, with believable characters in simple yet compelling situations: a winner.