Novelist explores financial divides in new survivalist tale

“Ponzi schemes don’t trickle down, they siphon up.” ― Heather Marsh

Money, whether you have it or not, chances are you want it. Money can provide security and comfort while the absence of it leads to struggles and potentially destitution. Our latest read transports readers about the globe as different characters find themselves falling into the prosperous and the impoverished.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel’s latest novel is a beautifully written, if meandering, tale about a Ponzi scheme and the characters whose lives were impacted by it. The story begins with Paul and his complicated ties to his half-sister Vincent who later becomes connected to the Ponzi scheme that dominates the narrative. The story itself is told from a number of different characters, jumping through time and place like children playing hopscotch as St. John Mandel gradually tells her story. While the book revolves around a Ponzi scheme, the story really isn’t about that particular event, instead it explores the rift between the wealthy and the poor and how the characters view their descent into poverty as traveling into a new country.

Based on the premise the book jacket offers, it seems that the disappearance of one of the characters would play a larger part in the book, however, due to the sheer volume of voices in the book, that particular element comes across as a smaller element in the plot.

In addition to her commentary on the financial divide, St. John Mandel employs ghosts in her narrative to literally and figuratively haunt her characters, many of whom find themselves dwelling in the past rather than the present as they focus on survival.

From the book jacket…

Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star lodging on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, moving imaginary sums of money through clients’ accounts. When the financial empire collapses, it obliterates countless fortunes and devastates lives. Vincent, who had been posing as Jonathan’s wife, walks away into the night. Years later, a victim of the fraud is hired to investigate a strange occurrence: a woman has seemingly vanished from the deck of a container ship between ports of call.

If you enjoy…

Readers might also enjoy St. John Mandel’s disaster novel “Station Eleven.” The book follows a group of actors traveling the ruins of the countryside after civilization’s collapse.