Monday, 3 February 2014

REVIEW: Heather Wardell - Fifty Million Reasons

"Angela has typical lottery player plans: help friends and family, give more to charity, and escape her rut. But when she wins big, she faces angry relatives, her own unexpected greed, and a lawsuit from the person who put her in that rut. Almost nobody treats her normally, and now they’ve got fifty million reasons not to. She can buy anything she wants now, but can she buy the life she needs?”

NOTE: Includes significant references to “Good to Myself” and “Pink Is A Four-Letter Word” – the author suggests reading those first however I didn’t and the book was still a fantastic read.

It’s easy to assume that if you won the lottery, all your problems would be solved but Angela’s story proves that, maybe, that wouldn’t be the case. In fact, winning might be the cause of the majority of your problems. Set in Canada (part of the reason I loved this book so much – I WILL move there one day), we follow the life of Angela – a regular woman who helps those less fortunate and has a small tight knit group of friends – after she wins big on the lottery. It looks at how money affects not just herself but also those around her, including those she thought she could rely on.

As a character, Angela is very relatable and it’s exceptionally easy to get caught up in her world – proof that it’s a fantastic book but also testament to Wardell’s writing style. There were plenty of times I found myself wondering how I’d react to winning and the truth is, it would be just as Angela (I hope. I think I hope anyway) but, more than that, I found myself questioning whether people would react to my (imaginary) win as those in the book did with Angela.

Angela is kind, generous, and pretty cool – something that doesn’t change too much throughout the book. We learn about her ex, Shane, before he’s fully introduced but only by fleeting comments. Her past isn’t mentioned much and, when it is, it’s not explained in a way that brings you entirely up to speed. At least, that’s how I felt when I read it. That being said, there was advance warning from the author and it’s genuinely the only little niggle I have with this book.

The writing style is a dream to read. As I mentioned previously, I would often find myself living in Angela’s world only to be brought back to reality when it was my tube stop or time to finally accept that my ‘one more chapter’ before bed had come. More than that, though, I would find myself thinking about the characters and the story when I was at work or watching TV – how would I spend the money? Would I follow the same suit as Angela? How was she going to react to certain events? The questions are endless. The writing style helps you to empathise with Angela and it’s this that makes the book strike a chord; we’d all like to think we’d be generous with our winnings but seeing things through Angela’s eyes has made me realise that I wouldn’t play it the way I initially thought I would and, maybe, that’s not a bad thing.

If I could take one thing away from this book, it’s that money can’t, and never will, make you happy. Not fully. When Shane reappears in Angela’s life, she thinks she’ll finally be able to have the life she’d been dreaming of since their split and it was her winnings she had to thank for reconnecting them (wait until you read that part – it’s amazing!) but it turns out that John (her friend that lives with his son in the same block as Angela, who she often visits) was right to be wary of the situation. Both Shane and Angela have changed in the 9 years since they were last together and no matter how much money she has, she can’t change that. So will they be able to make it work this time?

John is Angela’s, dare I say it, best friend and one of the few people that doesn’t treat her differently – at least not for the wrong reasons. He doesn’t accept handouts from Angela, despite how much he needs them and that ends up being both frustrating and endearing for Angela. Maybe what she needs is a friend who will be there, regardless of her bank balance?

I can’t rate this book highly enough – it’s superb. I love that it captures you so completely that you think about it even when you’re not reading it and when you are, you get lost in a whole other world that makes you think about reality. That sounds far more confusing than it is. The characters are well padded out, they’re likeable (in most cases) and things don’t necessarily go as you might think or hope.

*Received from NetGalley*