Meyers (Wedding on Big Bone Hill, 2014, etc.) offers a collection of three novellas concerning romance and wealth.
The first, titular tale begins in 1933. In it, a wealthy banker named Max Berlin and his private investigator are concerned about the fact that Soviet agents have kidnapped Berlin’s tenant—an eccentric Russian inventor on the cusp of launching a lucrative new technology. This scene leads into Berlin’s account of the changes in art and society in the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s; his marriage to the independent-minded Dora; and her infatuation with the mad Russian scientist. In Big Luck, set in the first decade of the current century, Mexican immigrant Ricardo is reluctant to seek American citizenship due to his occupation as a live-in catamite for a wealthy Iranian exile. When Ricardo’s lover breaks off the arrangement, he must find a new way to support himself, and he’s lured into a scheme to hide an acquaintance’s lottery winnings as tax-deductible gambling losses. In Sidestep, a college dropout goes to work for a wealthy friend of her father’s in an Ohio college town that the friend’s family has dominated for generations. She quickly falls into her new benefactor’s bed, but rumors about his wealth, and his sexual history, begin to concern her. Meyers is a masterly communicator of place, whether it be Manhattan of the 1930s or Los Angeles of the 2000s. Most impressively, he’s able to lock into the language and attitudes of each time and location. For example, Berlin narrates in the stodgy, judgmental declarations of a man of his class and generation: “The process of waking up to life is painful, and one our civilization feels it best to postpone, and which children themselves are happy to push off as long as they can.” The breadth of geography and history that Meyers covers keeps the collection varied and engrossing, and he has a knack for splashing a story with just enough mystery to keep readers plowing ahead. These novellas make an impression, and the only way to recover from one is to dive into the next.
A trilogy of dense, exciting novellas about American love and greed in different eras.