October 11, 2009

Review of "Breaking the Bank" by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Synopsis:  Mia Saul is down on her luck. Dumped by her husband, jettisoned from her job and estranged from her adored older brother, she and her young daughter Eden have had had to make a downscale move to a crummy apartment where their neighbors include a tough young drug dealer and a widower who lets his dogs use the hallways as their own personal litter box. Juggling a series of temporary jobs, wrangling with her ex-husband over child support and trying to keep pace with Eden’s increasingly erratic behavior have left Mia weary and worn out.

Then one evening a routine stop at her local bank’s ATM yields a surprise. The machine begins producing bills—quite a lot of them in fact—that are neither recorded nor debited from her account. At first Mia attributes the excess cash to a stroke of much needed luck. But when the machine continues to give her unaccounted for money and actually begins communicating with her, her life gets turned around in ways she never thought possible. An up-to-the minute urban story that has just a whiff of magic, Breaking The Bank is a wholly original, engaging work of contemporary fiction.

I waited anxiously for this book to show up after reading the synopsis.  There have been plenty of books that I was jumping at the bit to read and perhaps because I felt such a build up and had such high expectations, the reality of the book fell short.  Not so with Breaking the Bank.

This book works on all levels but the strongest parts of it are author Yona Zeldis McDonough's crisp, honest and witty writing and the character of Mia.   Despite the unlikelihood and "magic" of an ATM giving out free money to one particular person, the balance of the stories in Breaking the Bank are brutally honest and steeped in realism.  Our heroine, Mia Saul, lives in an old aparment building whose elevator has been broken for ages and who has a drug dealer, an elderly man who only seems to communicate with his dogs, and a family with both parents working at McDonald's as neighbors.  Mia is a flawed character - - her husband left her for another woman and she is still alternately bitter and pained about it; she is in denial about her daughter Eden's difficulties at school and acting out over her father's leaving; she feels inadequate as both a parent and a wife; she has issues with her mother and her brother's family; and last but not least, she doesn't necessarily run back to the bank with the free money.  But it's precisely these authentic flaws that make Mia such an easily relatable character, if not downright likeable.  Without giving away a major plot point, Mia acts in a fashion that may not be exactly amiable but I still liked her throughout the book. 

I found Breaking the Bank to be a light and yet astonishingly meaty read.  I was quickly invested in Mia and her story and not only wanted to find out how the situation with the ATM resolved itself but I also wanted to know what happened with Mia herself.

I would recommend this book without reservation and without hesitation to anyone who enjoys a story with compelling characters, a difficult conflict to overcome and with a bit of magic.

Breaking the Bank is available at all major booksellers, as well as through author Yona Zeldis McDonough's website. 

Many thanks to Sarah Reidy and Pocket Books for providing me with a review copy of this book. 

As a reminder, there is still another day available to enter a drawing to win a copy of Breaking the Bank.  Go here or click on the link located on the right sidebar.


Tales of Whimsy said...

"Astonishingly meaty"? I like that.

Krista said...

Oh, I'll have to look for this one. It sounds really good.