Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Pineapple Street, by Jenny Jackson: Rich People -- They're Just Like Us

One of my favorite moves is if I'm crossing the street, and a rich person in a six-figure luxury SUV pulls up to the stop sign, I'll slow and meander and sometimes pretend like I dropped something and generally make it clear to them that THEY HAVE TO WAIT FOR ME. It's dumb, I know. But I amuse myself thinking how annoyed this rich person must be to have to wait an extra four seconds for a plebian to walk in front of them. (About half the time, they don't even notice because they're staring at their phone.)

Anyway, all that is to say I have tough time empathizing with rich people. But that's the task Jenny Jackson has set for her readers in her debut novel, Pineapple Street. She presents us with the Stockton family, an old-money group of Brooklynites who are facing down the modern world in which being a millionaire maybe isn't as cool as it used to be. 

The story's told from the alternating perspectives of members of the family. Darley is the oldest daughter, and married to Malcolm. Darley has disavowed her trust because her husband refused to sign a prenup. So she's married for love but still lives a comfortable life due to her husband's hard work and success. Youngest daughter Georgiana is 26 and works for a non-profit that helps bring healthcare to developing countries. Between tennis with her mother and partying in Red Hook, she doesn't have too many problems -- except for the ones she begins to create for herself. And only son Cord (their names! lol) is married to Sasha, a woman from a middle-class family in Rhode Island who has never really warmed to the Stockton's blue-bloodedness (and that feeling is reciprocal!). Cord and Sasha have moved into the family's mansion on Pineapple Street at the behest of their parents, and this is just the beginning of some of the family strife. 

This is a sugary afternoon snack of a novel, not at all dissimilar from paging through US Weekly. Yes, rich people: They're just like us. Or so Jenny Jackson would like to have you believe. 

Whether or not you get along with this novel will depend on if you're convinced enough that this clan of rich people are truly different. Do they learn lessons that make you believe they'll truly do right? Does this crop of literary wealthy people who did nothing to earn their wealth, earn your literary sympathy? Do they do enough to try to be good people? 

I wasn't so sure. But I still enjoyed reading. It's quick and not super heady -- a great summer read. 

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