Thursday, January 03, 2019

Very Rich

Very Rich. Polly Horvath. 2018. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Rupert Brown came from a large family. They lived in a very plain small house on the edge of Steelville, Ohio. Rupert had so many brothers and sisters that it was like living in a small city-state.

Premise/plot: Rupert Brown is very poor. When he mistakenly walks to school on Christmas day-- which brings him through a very rich neighborhood--an accident leads him to spending the whole day with the richest family in town. The Rivers have their own unique--own CRAZY--notions of how to spend Christmas. And Rupert soon finds himself caught up in their madness--their quest to win all the prizes. Was Christmas just the beginning of his adventures with the other side?

My thoughts: I have very mixed feelings about Polly Horvath's Very Rich. It is a comic novel with dark undertones. The message seems to be that rich or poor most humans lack empathy and compassion. Most remain trapped in a world of me, me, me. OR else trapped in conditions completely out of their control.

I couldn't help being reminded of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Rupert spends every single day hungry. Rupert sleeps on the floor because there aren't enough beds--let alone bedrooms--for all the kids. Rupert is always cold; he's dressed in rags with no winter clothes. When Rupert is introduced to the Rivers it is to him just as bizarre and surreal as the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory is to Charlie. Could anyone really live like this? Rupert finds himself swept up into this fantasy that now that he's met the Rivers his life will change forever and ever. He's been found and rescued. But that isn't necessarily the truth. Charlie may have won it all--been permanently removed from his troubles and hard times. Charlie may have his own crazy happily ever after. But Rupert, well, he's left with nothing but a memory that confuses as well as haunts.

Love is achingly absent throughout the novel. The Browns do not love Rupert. The Browns do not have the capacity to love--to want--any of their children. The only Brown children to be noticed are the trouble-makers, the cat-stealers. The Rivers don't have much love to share either. They have an abundance of stuff, an abundance of staff, but no connections to one another, and no connections to the world.

Hope is absent as well. Rupert certainly has only the dimmest notion of it. He doesn't dare hope that he can be happy in his own home. Hope that he will be loved by his parents--actually seen, known, valued. Hope that he and his brothers and sisters will have food to eat on a daily basis, or clothes to wear that actually keep them warm. To live with that hope might prove too much. The tiny bit of hope that Rupert has is that somehow, someway the Rivers will save him from his mess of a life.


I guess what bothered me about this one was how Rupert is taken on and treated by the family. He's seen not as a person with emotions and feelings, with real-life needs. He's an amusement--a temporary amusement. He's like a throw-a-way toy in a Christmas cracker.

Original (intended) audience born circa 2007 to 2010.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Alyssa Nelson 8:19 AM  

This does sound dark and ultimately like it has an unsatisfying conclusion, which is interesting. Not sure it sounds like it's for me--I need something uplifting in my stories! :p Great review!

Becky 11:13 AM  

I like my stories to be more uplifting as well. I think this one ends as hopeful as it can without resolving any actual problems. I guess you could say it ends with him taking a tiny baby step towards a better tomorrow.

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