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This is a timely and often deeply engaging debut novel by an acclaimed short-story writer whose earlier collection of short fiction, You Are Not a Stranger Here, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. The novel begins slowly, as Haslett introduces his characters and sets his story in motion, but by midpoint, it becomes riveting. The year is 2002, and the villain at the heart of this story is Doug Fanning, a financier at an American bank who has built his career by cynically and sometimes criminally exploiting federal banking law. Fanning ends up leveraging himself into billions of dollars of debt, a situation that comes to threaten the viability of world financial markets (there are shades of Lehman Brothers here). Haslett handles this superbly, skillfully depicting the complexity and drama. He presents a fascinating portrait of high-level finance, where hubris and cavalier disregard for the law are kept just barely in check by a few sober, responsible civil servants working for the Federal Reserve. Verdict Recommended for readers of literary fiction.-Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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In Haslett's excellent first novel (following Pulitzer and National Book Award finalist short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here), a titan of the banking industry does battle with a surprisingly formidable opponent: a retired history teacher. Doug Fanning has built Union Atlantic from a mid-size Boston bank to an international powerhouse and rewards himself by building a rural palace in Finden, Mass. The land his house is built on, however, had been donated to Finden for preservation by Charlotte Graves's grandfather, and Charlotte believes she now has a claim on the lot. She may be right, and her disdain of modern decadence means bad news for Doug should she win in court. Meanwhile, high school senior Nate Fuller, who visits Charlotte for tutoring and Doug for awkward and lopsided sexual encounters, finds himself with the power to upset the legal and cultural war game. Haslett's novel is smart and carefully constructed, and his characters are brilliantly flawed. (Charlotte's emerging instability is especially heartbreaking.) This book should be of interest to readers fascinated but perplexed by the current financial crisis, as it is able to navigate the oubliette of Wall Street trading to create searing and intimate drama. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved