In this Pygmalion tale of a novelist turned bond trader, Martha McPhee brings to life the greed and riotous wealth of New York during the heady days of the second gilded age. India Palmer, living the cash-strapped existence of the writer, is visiting wealthy friends in Maine when a yellow biplane swoops down from the clear blue sky to bring a stranger into her life, one who will change everything.The stranger is Win Johns, a swaggering and intellectually bored trader of mortgage-backed securities. Charmed by India's intelligence, humor, and inquisitive nature and aware of her near-desperate financial situation Win poses a proposition: Give me eighteen months and I'll make you a world-class bond trader. Shedding her artist's life with surprising ease, India embarks on a raucous ride to the top of the income chain, leveraging herself with crumbling real estate, never once looking back...Or does she?
With a light-handed irony that is by turns as measured as Claire Messud's and as biting as Tom Wolfe's, Martha McPhee tells the classic American story of people reinventing themselves, unaware of the price they must pay for their transformation.
Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Martha McPhee, Author of Dear Money
Dear Amazon Readers, I began thinking about Dear Money
in 2004. Everyone, all over America, was buying a home, it seemed. People with money, without money, strawberry pickers and billionaires. Loans were easy to come by, and none of it made any sense. I met a bond trader of mortgage-backed securities and I was curious, wanted to get to the bottom of what this was all about, asked him a thousand questions. With all of a trader’s bravado and swagger he propositioned me, keen on my interest: "You give me eighteen months, I’ll turn you into a world-class bond trader." I loved the notion. He was at a huge Wall Street firm, a little bored by simply making so much money. He wanted a new challenge. For me, the idea of changing careers, making gobs of money, struck a chord and I chose to explore it through fiction. Why? What was all the nonsense? How could it be that all these people with no money could buy homes? I also wanted a home of my own. Around this time, a house in Maine that my husband and I loved--the one pictured here--was up for sale. We'd rented it in the summer for many years. It was in falling-down condition, wind blowing right through its walls, and the asking price was over a million dollars. Even in that time of national irresponsibility we knew we couldn't ever get a mortgage for it. So I took that house, my desire for it--with its breathtaking view of the cold Atlantic and the little islands floating just offshore, the dunes and the sweet peas and the finches and the seals, the clap of waves on the shore--and wove it into the novel that was turning around in my mind until the house became mine. The story: cash-strapped novelist transformed by Wall Street tycoon into fabulously successful securities trader. Now, with all the money in the world, what would she do with the falling-to-pieces summer cottage? What would this transformation make of her? And in this world thick with money, where does the artist stand?
(Photo © Pryde Brown Photographs)
McPhee was offered training as a real-life bond trader--perhaps the inspiration for Dear Money
--but she stuck with fiction. Critics, however, were divided on her latest novel. Most enjoyed the first half, which describes the jaw-dropping cost of raising a family in 21st-century Manhattan. But the second half, with its pedantic detailing of the financial world, proved to be much less entertaining. Several critics were also bothered by secondary characters who were unnaturally good natured (the Washington Post
described India's daughters as "the least demanding children in the history of civilization"). Despite these flaws, most reviewers found Dear Money
to be a worth a shot, calling it a "playful, witty, couldn't-be-more-timely morality tale" (San Francisco Chronicle