Reviews for Privileges
Booklist Reviews 2009 December #1
In his previous four novels, Dee has dramatized peculiarly American forms of absurdity and moral bankruptcy with search-and-destroy precision and calculated understatement. That approach serves him well in this ensnaring tale of alienating wealth, in which Dee breaks fresh artistic ground with the sheer beauty and quiet poignancy of his prose. Picture-perfect and ferociously confident and ambitious Adam and Cynthia marry right out of college and quickly have children, April and Jonas. Adam excels at a private equity firm in Manhattan, but, impatient for the big money, he also launches a high-stakes insider-trading venture. The gleaming Moreys become so impossibly rich they don't seem quite human to others, and, of course, money doesn't preclude suffering. Dee deftly avoids cliché as Adam and Cynthia go against type by being fiercely loyal to each other, April takes desperate risks, and Jonas, the brightest and most creative of the clan, embarks on an inquiry into outsider art that lands him in a strange and terrifying predicament. A suspenseful, melancholy, and acidly funny tale about self, family, entitlement, and life's mysteries and inevitabilities. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2009 November #1
Gilded young go-getter creates, not always legally, a cocoon for his family in Dee's mostly buoyant fifth novel about money, family and mortality. Adam and Cynthia Morey, Midwestern transplants in Manhattan, have beauty, brains, charm and a formidable determination to carve out a comfortable world for themselves, though they do not come from money; Adam's father was a pipe fitter. The couple, married when they're only 22, have some simple rules. Forget the past. Seize the day. Keep in shape. Glow! Two kids, April and Jonas, arrive early; no problem. Adam has the Midas touch and the trust of his boss at his private-equity firm. Honoring complexity, Dee (Palladio, 2002, etc.) refuses to paint Adam as a total narcissist or philanderer. Unlike his peer Sherman McCoy in Bonfire of the Vanities, Adam has a doglike devotion to his wife, the stronger character. They dote on their kids; family means this charmed circle of four. Everyone else is an outsider. When her stepsister has a breakdown, Cynthia dumps her like somebody else's garbage. Dee tracks the Moreys over 20-plus years as they strive for a life without limits. Their sex life still sizzles; aging is forbidden; their money keeps growing, helped by Adam's involvement in insider trading, a risk he enjoys. Still, we ignore limits and connectedness at our peril, and that's Dee's theme, implied without glib moralizing. The novel's final third turns darker. Both parents are frantically busy, heavily involved in charity work; they're boldface names, with their own foundation. Then Cynthia takes a time out; her dad is dying in a Florida hospice and she feels uncharacteristically bereft. The pampered college-age kids appear trapped. April is spiraling downward; drugs, meaningless sex. Jonas, an art student and half-hearted rebel against his family's values, almost loses his life to a madman because of his lack of survival skills. Thoughtful and bracingly unpredictable, though the lack of a resolution is frustrating. Agent: Amanda Urban/ICM Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2009 November #2
Dee's latest novel (after Palladio) is a scathing portrait of the perks and perils of a life of privilege. Cynthia and Adam Morey are a golden couple--beautiful, ambitious, untouchable. From their wedding in their early twenties, to raising two children in Manhattan, to Adam's rise in the financial world, they exude a self-absorbed confidence, and their commitment to each other shines. Yet Adam's relentless insider trading and lack of conscience are pathological. Daughter April is aimless and abuses drugs, while son Jonas eschews his trust fund and attends art school. In a twisted and bizarre sideplot, he comes running back to the safety of his privileged life after a near-death experience. Dee excels at detailing contemporary scenes, delivering pitch-perfect dialog, and crafting brutal, hard-to-forget interactions, as when Cynthia coldly buys off her dying father's girlfriend in order to spend a few last hours with the man who deserted her as a child. VERDICT Readers who appreciate complex characters with questionable morality will enjoy discussing this stylish work. [Library marketing; ebook available 1/10: ISBN 978-1-58836-920-8.]--Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA [Page 57]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 September #4
Dee's four prior novels (Palladio; etc.) cast an intelligent, calculating eye on the culturally topical, which sparked comparisons to the writings of Updike, DeLillo and Franzen. The wedding of Adam and Cynthia Morey, a young and charming couple who quickly expand into a brood of four, begins Dee's fifth. Adam and Cynthia's nuanced personalities and playful, sincere exchanges form the novel's empathic backbone as Adam begins to profit immensely from risky side ventures while working for a hedge fund. Dee establishes a trust with his readers that allows Adam's murky business ethics to escape the spotlight of outright moral scrutiny, and by showing how Adam endangers his privilege--while his children endanger their own lives--Dee reveals how risk is a kind of numbing balm. April, Adam's daughter, responds to the boredom of material comfort by resorting to drug-induced self-effacement. The novel climaxes as the children face the possibility of their own death, though lucidity after mortal danger is fleeting: "I can feel myself forgetting what it feels like to feel," April says. Dee notably spurns flat portraits of greed, instead letting the characters' self-awareness and self-forgetfulness stand on their own to create an appealing portrait of a world won by risk. (Jan.) [Page 41]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.