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Breaking the Bank

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
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  • Posted October 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Charming NY story - tough, exciting, full of magic!

    Synopsis:

    Mia Saul lives with her ten-year-old daughter Eden in a fourth floor rental in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It's a neighborhood that they love with Prospect Park, the green market, the public library, playground, stores and eateries. Ever since her ex-husband Lloyd left, things have been difficult and it's all Mia can do to keep her head above water. Her beloved Eden has gone beyond vegetarian: the list of things that she refuses to eat grows larger every day. Plus, Eden has been getting into fights and all sorts of destructive behavior. Between losing her job, looking for contractual publishing gigs, meeting with Eden's teacher, therapist and school principal, Mia doesn't have time to look for love or make any large changes in her life.

    After difficult parent-teacher talk, losing the week's groceries, and beating herself up, Mia drops by a nearby ATM machine and where she receives a windfall of cash. Though she worries that there must be some mistake, she keeps some, splurges a little, and gives some away. And Mia starts to believe that her luck is changing.

    Book Review:

    Breaking The Bank is sure to give magical did-I-just-read-that?! moments. The people and places in Mia Saul's neighborhood easily become real. It's not hard to imagine ten-year-old Eden trying to control the changes in her life with a growing love of Barney's, imaginary vacations, and her growing list of boycotted foods. Or sharing Mia's longing for the camaraderie shared with her brother Stuart before he became the Park Avenue corporate lawyer with the house in Greenwich, a corporate lawyer wife and two sets of blond, long haired twins. Or frustration with ex-husband from Phillips Academy and Princeton who, hit with sudden yellow fever, has money for splurges but irregular child support. Or growing fond of Mia's best friend, Julia, the generous and sage bartender with an extensive shoe collection. It's not just because I live in Brooklyn that the places and people that Yona'd described came alive for me, she paints a New York I would love to imagine living right under my nose. Tough, exciting, full of magic.

    Publisher: Downtown Press (September 8, 2009), 368 pages.
    Courtesy of the publisher.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Quirky, Satisfying Read

    Mia Saul is barely keeping her head above water. She lives in New York City with her daughter, Eden, and works a series of temp editorial jobs. Her husband, Lloyd, has walked out after sixteen years of marriage for a young girl he met while filming a documentary on the nail salon industry. He sends child support haphazardly when it suits him, but still considers himself able to interfere in all of Mia's decisions. Mis is constantly worried. Worried about Eden, who is having trouble at school, worried about money, worried about their apartment, just worried.

    Then one night it happens. She goes to an ATM to take out one hundred dollars, and the machine gives her two hundred, while putting out a receipt for the hundred she asked for. She assumes the machine just made a mistake and it would reflect on her next statement, but the mistake doesn't show up. The next time it is five hundred, then a thousand, and finally an uncirculated ten-thousand dollar bill. Mis can't believe what is happening, but doesn't tell anyone. She starts to give money to those around her in need, trying to make their lives a little better as the money does hers.

    But worse is to happen. She sells the bill to a local dealer, who then gets killed soon after. That brings the police to Mia's door, and she is even arrested and spends a night in jail. This just provides more ammunition to Lloyd, who manages to get Mia's family on his side. They all insist that she is making poor decisions that affect Eden, and Eden goes to live with her grandparents, leaving Mia miserable.

    Along with these woes, there are romantic ones. Will Mia get back with Lloyd, who seems to be around more and more? Will she start a new relationship with Fred, the steady laid-back bartender who is definately interested in her? Or will she throw everything away for an exciting mystery man who everyone thinks is totally wrong for her?

    Breaking The Bank is a charming book. It is a light romance as well as an interesting take on the everyday life of single moms. The reader finds themselves cheering for Mia to make it. This book is recommended for those looking for a feel-good book, and for lovers of women's literature.

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  • Posted October 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fun and Original Piece of Magic!

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2009

    SAVE YOUR MONEY

    the book is definately not what i expected. the reviews were pretty good which is why i was expecting it to be alot better than what it was. yeah its everyones ideal situation but the book just went on and on. with really no point besides the fact that she was getting free money. book in a quick review mia gets divorced and is having trouble paying the bills. she gets free money from a bank and decides to share it with everyone she comes into contact with. she meets a nice guy but then later messes it up by sleeping with some bum, yes a bum, she meets in jail. in the end shes pretty well off. IT WAS NOT A GOOD BOOK. DONT WASTE YOUR MONEY.

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  • Posted September 18, 2009

    A terrifc page turner!

    Yona Zeldis McDonough's compelling new novel is the sort of book that is nearly impossible to put down. Mia Saul, the protagonist, a beleaguered single mother, instantly earns the reader's sympathy, and I found myself rooting for her every step of the way. From the very first page, I knew I was in the hands of an expert storyteller, a writer who instinctively understands how to keep the reader guessing from one page to the next. I'm going to recommend "Breaking the Bank" to all my friends who are members of book clubs!

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  • Posted September 15, 2009

    ENTERTAINING AND THOUGHT PROVOKING!

    The goose that laid the golden eggs and the New York Lottery proved that "It Could Happen to You!" But what would you do if an ATM machine began spewing out hundreds of dollars without reducing your account balance? McDonough weaves a charming tale about a woman who is finally free to live her life as she chooses after the stress of paying bills and the costs of raising a child are under control. BREAKING THE BANK is full of warm humor and honest emotion while asking tough questions about human nature at a time when investment bankers are once again being paid staggering bonuses as supermarket prices rise, parents fret about tuition, and many people can't find work. The author skillfully interweaves the complexities of financial survival and the challenges of relationships in a novel filled with wonderful imagery, dialogue and characterizations.

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  • Posted August 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    allegorical look at modern life

    Mia Saul lost her job at the same her husband Lloyd kicks her to the curb. Accompanied by her ten year old daughter Eden, she moves into a crummy Brooklyn apartment, where their neighbors include a tough young drug dealer and a widower whose dogs use the hallways as toilets. Mia obtains temporary work while her spouse argues over child support and Eden struggles to adjust to the changes in her life.

    Mia goes to an ATM to withdraw money, but the machine hands her thousands which she did not ask for without reducing her account into negative numbers; the machine advises her to use the loot smartly. She leaves with plenty of money and dreams of opportunities. The police wonder if she is doing something illegal and her family friends fear for her sanity so they decide on an intervention while Lloyd demands Eden stay with his parents in North Carolina. When she meets her neighbor Patrick, Mia finds a breath of fresh air in her still troubled existence.

    Although the plot is thin and filled with improbability (not counting the ATM machine who is more human than most of the cast), readers will enjoy this allegorical look at modern life in which the manta is to get something for nothing is highly acceptable. The whimsical story line is fast-paced as everyone inside of Mia's circle wonders if she selling drugs or her body. Fans who enjoy something different but magical will want to read Mia's BREAKING THE BANK as the "fortune cookie" ATM wisely advises the heroine on spending her unearned loot.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    everyone's favorite fantasy

    Who among us doesn't fantasize about what they'd do with large sums of found money? McDonough interjects the materialization of this fantasy into a realistic framework. The fantasy is clearly fantasy, but the consequences of it are all too real and human. To stretch a Delmore Schwartz line, in the fulfillment of fantasies begin responsibilities. Mia may not seriously question the logic behind her great luck, but she does question its implications for her life. Her regular, unexplained windfalls give her opportunities far beyond the material. She begins to see who she is in potentia, and we get to think about who we would be if the world's most common fantasy came true for us.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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