Friday, January 28, 2022

Book Review: Good Rich People

By Jami Denison

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” His most well-regarded book, The Great Gatsby, went on to prove it. Published almost a hundred years ago, it’s hard to believe that the inequality he wrote about has gotten even worse. 

And so have the people.

Author Eliza Jane Brazier, in her sophomore offering, doesn’t seem to think too highly of rich people; her title Good Rich People is sarcastic. Her rich married couple, Graham and Lyla, aren’t the carelessly indifferent type à la Tom and Daisy Buchanan; they actively seek to harm other people. In their contemporary home overlooking Los Angeles, on the grounds of Graham’s mother Margo’s extensive estate (which includes a nine-level garden based on Dante’s circles of hell), they invite tenants to live in their guest house, and then play a game to ruin their lives. When we first meet Lyla, she’s overseeing the handyman cleaning the blood out of their decorative fountain. The blood came from the previous tenant. Lyla is trapped in a sexless marriage; she loves Graham, who is a sociopathic, manipulative pretty boy completely in cahoots with his evil mother. Neither Graham nor Margo think Lyla really belongs in their family. They want her to destroy the life of their new tenant, Demi, to prove that she does. And Lyla says okay.

But Lyla doesn’t know—no one knows—that Demi isn’t Demi at all. Demi, a rich tech executive, died of a drug overdose, and her life has been taken over by a homeless woman who blames herself for Demi’s death. Determined not to be arrested for Demi’s death, and seduced by the lifestyle of the couple who lives upstairs, she becomes more and more ruthless as the book progresses. With everyone playing a game, who’ll be the last person standing?

I never understood why Fitzgerald had Nick Carroway narrate The Great Gatsby until I read Good Rich People. The book begins in Lyla’s first-person narration, and she’s such a self-centered, careless character that it was hard to continue reading. Her love for her psychotic spouse is incomprehensible. I was ready to put the book down until Brazier revealed that Demi wasn’t Demi after all. That’s when I began rooting for the faux Demi to bring down the entire rotten house of cards. 

In the chapters told from her first-person point-of-view, faux Demi reveals herself to be a victim of the nation’s “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. Raised by a single father who was an addict, abandoned by the system at 18, tricked into a worthless degree from a for-profit college, she’s bounced from minimum-wage jobs into homelessness. And so, when she decides to do a good deed for Demi, the universe seems to reward her for her efforts. 

Good Rich People is a satire that lacks humor; a social parable for a country that has billionaires in space while diabetics ration their insulin. You might find Graham and Lyla completely unbelievable, then a Senator who owns a yacht and a Maserati opposes a child tax credit because their parents might use it to take drugs; family leave is out because people might pretend to be sick in order to go hunting. The cruelty is the point. 

With a completely satisfying ending, Good Rich People is a timely reminder that it’s not just their money that makes the rich different from you and me.  “Fight back,” Brazier, who lives in L.A. and has worked in the television industry, seems to be telling us. Don’t lie down and take it. Take it from them.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Eliza Jane Brazier:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

No comments: