I’ve written about a lot of beach books coming out this year – fantastic reads that I’d recommend again. But they’ve all been trumped by Rich Boy by Sharon Pomerantz, which I’m naming my top beach read of the summer. If you’re going down the shore for a week in August, get this, and plan to be stuck in your beach chair.
It’s about Robert Vishniak, a boy from Northeast Philadelphia who dreams of more – much more than his working class parents, in their tiny row home and penny pinching ways, could ever dream of offering him. He’s the first in his family to go to college, which should be a good thing, but he ends up chasing the one thing his parents didn’t have: money. The novel is about how that one specific drive for that one thing can direct one man’s life – well, two, if you count Robert’s brother Barry. It’s a long and winding novel, and completely engrossing and, yes, sad.
I grew up in the Philadelphia area, and know a lot of people from the Northeast, and can understand Robert’s underlying motivation to do better. Pomerantz nails it there. Fantastically. My only quibble is that there are some factual errors in the chapter where the family goes to Atlantic City, and not small errors either. Even if you don’t write about the Jersey Shore like I do, you’ll probably pick them up, unless they are corrected by the time the final version prints (I have a galley).
But that’s a small reason not to like the novel. Mark this one down. It’s an excellent read.