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Very Rich: 12/11/18

Very Rich

Very Rich by Polly Horvath is set in Ohio in the present, but in that odd uhoric timelessness of the Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall. Rupert Brown is one of many siblings, growing up extremely poor in Steelville.

At the other extreme is the River family, the owners of the big factor in Steelville. They all live together in a mansion and don't worry about things like budgets or clothing or food or any of things that Rupert can only dream of having.

On Christmas, Rupert, cold and tired and starving stumbles to school is surprised to see it closed and tries to head home. On the way, he ends up trapped in the security gate of the River mansion. When he ends up on the grounds, he's invited to Christmas dinner.

The extremes of the Christmas meal as well as the farcical behaviour of the different River family members goes to the extremes of Roald Dahl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Things end badly for Rupert, thus setting off the remaining two thirds of the book. Each of the member River family wants to apologize for how Rupert was treated during Christmas. Each of these adventures involves some level of fantasy, again in a Roald Dahl fashion.

Despite being a rather episodic and nonsensical book, it fits snuggly in what's typically the horror section of the road narrative spectrum. With a marginalized boy (for his poverty and the way he's ignored by his parents) traveling through time (and for the rather timeless nature of the setting) along a blue highway (to small towns and cities in an otherwise ordinary Ohio), it's a 66CC33. While what Rupert's home life is horrific it's played for comedy just as Charlie Bucket's situation is.

While I enjoyed bits and pieces of the book and found it an interesting execution given the narrative building blocks, I didn't find the overall story satisfying. There was no satisfying conclusion. The book ends with Rupert having had some bizarre adventures but otherwise in the same spot he was at the start of book.

It's not that I expected a happy ending but her other books typically end at a higher place than where they start. Even when the narrative has an open-ended conclusion, the protagonists usually end up in a better place. But this time she's not so subtly commenting on the growing divide between the very poor and the very rich.

Three stars

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