ABOUT THE BOOK:
Phoebe sees the fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers in Brooklyn. Eventually he creates a financial dynasty and she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.
When Phoebe learns—along with the rest of the world—that her husband’s triumphs are the result of an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. Lies underpin her life and marriage. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Did
Debate rages as to whether love and loyalty blinded her to his crimes or if she chose to live in denial. While Jake is trapped in the web of his own deceit, Phoebe is faced with an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning Jake, a man she’s known since childhood, feels cruel and impossible.
From Brooklyn to Greenwich to Manhattan, from
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The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers is a 2017 Atria Books publication.
With Wall Street and finance, loop holes can go undetected for long periods of times, especially if everyone is doing well. But, sooner or later, the piper demands payment, something Jake Pierce finds out the hard way, which elicits very little sympathy from me, but it’s the innocent victims, like his wife and children, who will pay the ultimate price for his sins.
This story examines the lives of Phoebe and Jake Pierce, how they began dating as teens, got married, started a family, and experienced immense financial success, only to have it all come crashing down around them in spectacular fashion.
The story is told from the dual perspectives of Phoebe and Jake, alternatively, going all the way back to the beginning of their relationship in the 1960’s, and is told chronologically, ending with the fallout of Jake’s actions as he sits in prison.
This is a familiar tale,
In the meantime, Phoebe raises two children, embarks on her own enterprises without the slightest support from Jake, who occasionally scoffs or put down her business ventures or humanitarian efforts. But, Phoebe had no problem enjoying the spoils of their success, living a life of luxury, seemingly without the slightest clue that Jake was skimming off the top, or doing something illegal. Her only concern is a suspicion he may have been unfaithful to her.
What I learned about Phoebe is that she is not stupid, is actually a ‘good’ person, and is not as culpable as people are convinced she is.
Jake’s perspective shows us the ‘real’ Jake, and he is not the Jake Phoebe or her children believe him to be. Naturally, the reader can easily see through him, which made it very frustrating for me because I couldn’t understand why Phoebe couldn’t or wouldn’t see Jake’s true nature.
While everyone in the family becomes accustomed to living a pampered lifestyle, Phoebe, and by extension, her children, seem to remain grounded, while Jake’s greed took over and became his ultimate downfall. This was an interesting juxtaposition, and a book club topic, which gave me something to chew on.
Once the pyramid crumbles and Phoebe loses everything she had gained, becoming a pariah, she finds herself at odds with her children who do not understand why she continues to write and visit Jake in prison. Phoebe finds difficult to explain her loyalty because of one big secret she’s harbored all these years and because of the longevity of the marriage. But, personally, I wondered if she was looking for some kind of redeemable quality in her husband that she could point to that would make all her years with him seem less of a lie.
She endures many indignities because of Jake and while she bravely confronts her situation, it’s obvious Jake is still Jake and will never change. The question is what will it take to pull the wool from Phoebe's eyes?
When Phoebe finally does have that epiphany, it's fairly late in the game and after much suffering and tragedy. But, once it happens I felt a huge sense of relief, despite the lingering sadness and grief, because I felt Phoebe was finally free for the first time in her life.
This is an absorbing story which gives the reader an inside look at how it could be possible to remain ignorant of the crimes committed right under your nose and how easy it would be to look the other way if you did suspect anything was amiss, especially if you are insulated by money. It also examines the selfishness of such acts, not only against the obvious victims, but against those closest to you, who will perhaps suffer the most.
Overall, this book gave me a lot to think about. The family drama and the push/pull from all angles as Phoebe struggles to maintain her own place in life, not just as a wife or mother, while Jake plots and plans and sins and rationalizes and justifies his actions makes for some riveting scenes. The characterizations are very well drawn and believable, and enabled me to see all points of view, pass my judgements without qualms, and made me hope that others would come around to my way of thinking, eventually.
But, ultimately the question the story is begging me to answer is, “What would I do in this situation?’
The answer is not as easy, or black and white, as you might think.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, where I quickly moved from playing with dolls to
My dreams of justice simmered at the fantastically broadminded Camp Mikan, where I went from camper to counselor, culminating in a high point when (with the help of my strongly Brooklyn-accented singing voice), I landed the role of Adelaide in the staff production of "Guys and Dolls."
Soon I was ready to change the world, starting with my protests at Tilden High and City College of New York, until I left to pursue the dream in Berkeley, California, where I supported myself by selling candy, nuts, and ice cream in Bartons of San Francisco. Then, world-weary at