Money Loveby Brad Barkley
Ever since sixteen-year-old Gabe Strickland can remember, his father, Roman, has believed in the sale: that magical moment on the customer's porch, the deal about to close. But with each dizzying success comes an equally memorable failure, and Gabe's mother, Gladys, has grown tired of waiting for a life of financial stability. So in the summer of 1975 she leaves Roman and goes to live with his dependable brother Dutch. Confident he can win Gladys back, Roman pins all his hopes on a barnstorming tour of Southern carnivals, hawking tickets for "Death Cars of Celebrities." Gabe finds his own truth somewhere between Roman's quixotic dreaming and Gladys's newfound stability, and he learns that love is, ultimately, the one thing that can't be bought or sold. Reading group guide included.
Author Biography: Brad Barkley, a native of North Carolina, is the author of Circle View, a short-story collection. He lives in Frostburg, Maryland.
Gabriel Strickland is a typical teenager. His whole life ahead of him, Gabe feels "like Cinderella at the ball, waiting for the clock to strike twelve." But between his mother Gladys's fantasy of his future as an artist, and his father Roman's wishes that Gabe join him on the road à la Willy Loman, he feels lost and torn.
Roman, despite his big heart and best intentions, has continually subjected his little family to years of uncertainty and deprivation. A dreamer of big dreams, he fully believes in his ability to pitch anything and anyone. In fact, he has resold Girl Scout cookies at twice the price, and emptied out entire soda machines late at night to turn around and sell the icy libations the next day at the hottest hour, also at a tidy profit. But when Gladys decides she's had enough of delivering ultimatums and working nights at the United Dairy to support her dreamer husband, everything goes awry. She runs to an unlikely place-the home of Roman's brother, Dutch, a well-to-do car dealer who is everything Roman is not. And Gabe is left in limbo: if he follows Gladys he'll betray Roman, and if he stays with Roman, he's expected to quit school and partner up in Roman's next foolhardy adventure.
In Money, Love, Brad Barkley has nestled his story deep inside the psyche of a teenage boy on the brink of embracing adulthood-with all its joys and disappointments. Switch-ing from comedy to poignancy, Barkley's first novel is a rip-roaring ride to read, and Gabe Strickland is a character so realistic, you'll swear you've met him before-and hope you'll meet again.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt
The summer after Nixon resigned, my father began selling the Mr. America Body Sculpting kits, carrying them in the trunk of his Chevy Impala and wholesaling them door to door. August was the wrong time for such work, walking our low North Carolina hills in his brown suit, lugging the boxes of weights, stepping along broken sidewalks and driveways into basements and attics where he would assemble the kits for his customers and drink the glasses of iced tea they offered him. For all of his forty-one years, he'd had an unerring knack for predicting trends after they'd already occurred, conceiving hotshot ideas and then failing to capitalize on them, a natural inclination to wrong turns. At a time when it seemed everyone in the country had discovered jogging and yoga, the whole idea of lifting weightsgrunting, sweating, pumping ironseemed almost right-wing, as out of fashion as the Mr. America ads I saw in the back of my Popular Mechanics. They were always the same, those crudely drawn comic strips showing exiled fifties kids leaving the malt shop and heading toward the beach, where the crew-cut guys would fight over girls in Annette Funicello hairdos and two-piece swimsuits too modest to be called bikinis.
Even I understood the irony of those ads in that time, and I didn't know anything. I was sixteen years old, growing up in a city of subdivisions with names like Green Valley and Forest Glen, near a shopping center where each Christmas Santa Claus would drop in on a parachute. I let myself be carried through days by what amounted to a dumb acceptance of life, like a cow in afield. I wore a ponytail then, not as any kind of statement, but because my mother, Gladys (who insisted I call her by her first name), fancied herself an artist and poet and thought that raising a nonconformist child made her seem more the part. Her poems were published in mail-order anthologies she had to agree to buy for $29.95, an extra $10 for her name embossed in gold on the cover, her poems scattered in among a thousand others, nearly all of them on the subjects of Grandpa's farm, old dying dogs, and the American flag. One year she won the "Platinum Poetess Medal" and flew her first jet flight to Chicago, paid $275 (plus air fare and accommodations), and walked onto a plywood riser in the Airport Ramada to receive a framed certificate and a fountain pen. She went along with all this, I think, pretending, knowing that her poems were not very good, but wanting the pleasure of them anyway. Gladys believed that her final reward abided in me, that after nine and a half months of pregnancy and thirty-one hours of labor and a couple decades of free-spirited well-meaning parenting, I would finally become a "serious artist of some importance." This was her phrase, and she repeated it as though I'd come with a warranty. But the closest I came to an artistic impulse was dancing on my mattress in my underwear, whanging away at an imaginary guitar while Grand Funk or Led Zeppelin howled on the eight-track.
In the Mr. America ads no one did bong hits or tabs of acid, no one drank beer and drove around at night throwing the empties at stop signs. Instead they drove to the beach in paneled woodies filled with surfboards, enduring an endless summer. They had never seen leftover spray-painted microbuses and tiny Japanese cars, had never been stuck in a gas line on some cold Monday morning. Everybody in Mr. America world was white; no one had long hair, no one was poor. It was a world, stuck there in glossy black and white, into which my father would have fit nicely; people had not yet learned to give up their trust of politicians, policemen, salesmen. He could have made a killing selling embossed Bibles or hair tonic or fallout shelters. The world would not change so much, so quickly. He finally caught on, that summer of 1975, too late, when the sixties were finally over and he began wholesaling surplus army clothes and neon tie-dyed T-shirts, the same year everybody began blow-drying their hair and wearing leisure suits. Mr. America world had vanished forever. I didn't know how to tell him.
But my father could sell. I needed no more evidence of this than the fact that he'd sold Gladys on the idea of marrying him, even though her family cut her off from the money they'd made selling Standish's Lawn Builder and other fertilizer supplies, kicked her off the property at Pawleys Island one October. But for my father, nothingnot even winning Gladyswas ever enough. He grew impatient in his selling, made mistakes, got fired. He went through so many jobs that finally he had printed up a generic business card:
Roman Morrill Strickland
In the corner was a fancy four-color graphic of a cherub adorned with hearts, garlands, and bows. My father said he intended the cherub to symbolize him, to be something that would stick in the minds of his customers, an idea he dredged from one of the motivational and super-salesmanship books he constantly read. I didn't tell him that at a stocky five foot ten, with slicked-down black hair beneath his fedora, a solid gut hanging over his belt, and dense fur covering his chest, he was hard to imagine as anything remotely cherubic. Roman was handsome, in a way that had gone out of stylehis wide-shouldered burliness, gold tooth in the corner of his mouth, suspenders beneath his suitcoats. He wore a pinkie ring and paid money he could not afford for manicures. During up years he drove a big Lincoln Continental with suicide doors and opera lights. He still believed suaveness and manners carried currency with women, and, for a certain portion of his life, it did.
The weight sets weren't moving. Roman had assembled one of them in the damp basement of our house, beneath the pink lightbulb my mother kept screwed in the overhead socket because she liked the light it threw on her sheets when she folded laundry. She believed in small pleasures. At night after supper my father went downstairs and lifted weights, wearing a T-shirt, his pants tucked into a pair of old leather lace-up wrestling shoes he'd kept since high school. The set consisted of barbells and free weights which were no more than disks of cement wrapped in maroon plastic. There was also a bench that would tilt and recline for preacher curls and bench presses, a jump rope with weighted handles, a medicine ball, hand grips, a leather belt, and a full-size drawing of a man with his major muscle groups colored in pinks and browns and labeled with Latin names. This my father taped to the water heater, so I had to walk under the stairs to see the major muscle groups of the man's left shoulder and arm. Every evening I followed my father to the basement and read aloud the instructions for doing the exercises properly, to achieve, the booklet said, "the full Mr. America ISOTONIC(tm) Benefit!!!" Roman grunted with each lift, and beneath the pink bulb the redness of his face deepened. There seemed to be some kind of disappointment built into the set, as if making yourself anything like the pictures of Mr. America on the box (that hairless, tanned body, biceps like tennis balls) was simply impossible. I could not imagine Roman ever looking like that. Plus, the sound of the weights wasn't right; instead of the clang and ring of iron, the plastic-covered free weights gave forth a quiet pock when they hit into one another. Within a week the bar had begun to rust and the cement had broken inside several of the weights, so that they rattled like a box of stones. Roman wore a faint stripe of oil across his T-shirt where the bar rested on bench presses.
My job was to spot for him, and the first night he'd assigned it to me, he sat me down on the bench, looked me in the face, and wrinkled his eyes with deep concern (his "closing face," he called it). He told me he was putting his life in my hands. He took my wrists and held up my hands for me to see. I felt like some crack demolition expert, a gifted heart surgeon, and dismissed the thought that if he were to drop those 210 pounds squarely on his windpipe, there would be nothing I could do except run to the phone or scream. But when the reps slowed, I acted as if I were helping him, as if I really could save his life. He paid me two dollars an hour.
One night I stood behind him watching the bar rise and fall, bobbing my head to the sound of Deep Purple playing on the portable eight-track plugged in above the workbench. Roman puffed and grunted, smoking Pall Malls between sets, a thin film of sweat coating the vinyl bench of the weight set. Ours was not a normal basement with stacks of runny paint cans, tools, sawdust, and broken toys. Instead we were surrounded by leftover samples of all the things my father had sold, from jobs he'd held and lost. One shelf contained boxes of an all-in-one kitchen appliance called the Juice Moose, which actually worked, but came with a pink-and-blue cartoon moose permanently embossed on the front. Below that were the Havahart traps for rats and mice and the polystyrene golf balls guaranteed to shave five strokes off your game.
Gladys stood beside us snapping sheets under her pink bulb, folding my father's boxer shorts and starching his collars while she ironed on top of the washer, turning inside out my rock-band T-shirts so the iron-on decals wouldn't melt. She tried to hide under the basket of clothes her own underwear, the black front-hook bras and lace garter belts. It was only lately that I had connected the contents of the laundry with what my mother must have been wearing under her clothes, under the tan khaki skirts and tennis shorts and Peter Pan collars; it didn't seem to fit, as if there had been some mix-up and the washing machine had transported away what I imagined to be my mother's real underwear: white, wiry bras with wide straps andGod knows, I really thought thisbloomers. The black and silvery lace she tucked beneath the pile of clothes seemed like some other life she was hiding away. While I watched her, Roman grunted and the bar began to tip. I helped settle the bar while the tape deck clicked onto "Space Truckin'." I plucked the pocket of my jeans with an imaginary guitar pick.
"Turn that crap down," Roman said. "They sound like a bunch of maniacs."
"The very thing your father said about Buddy Rich," Gladys said. "Gabe's absorbing the music of his culture. It's part of his education."
"Study the way money works, son. That's all you need to know."
"Really, Roman," Gladys said. "Gabe, ignore him."
"I'm serious," Roman said. "One of your teachers starts poppin' off about ..." He shrugged and stubbed out his Pall Mall on the leg of the weight bench. He swung his legs across and sat up. "What are they poppin' off about these days?"
"The Bastille ..." I said. "Robert Frost ... cosines."
"Okay, there you go. One of them starts on Robert Frost, you raise your handalways polite, customers remember thatyou raise it and say, 'How will this help me make money?' No answer? Walk out." He took a towel out of the fresh laundry and wiped his neck.
"Don't you listen to him, Gabe," Gladys said. "Think what money did to Richard Burton and Ernest Hemingway."
"God, yes," Roman said. "They had to get paid to be on TV, marry gorgeous women, drive sports cars. It was awful."
"I can't walk out of school, Dad," I said. "I'll get busted."
"Then I'll teach you," Roman said. "Home schooling, right here. Lesson one. You knock on a door, lady in curlers, face like a gravel driveway, and you're there to sell her what?"
I looked at my mother, and she rolled her eyes. This was an old drill. "Venetian blind cleaner attachments," I said.
"Fine, good," Roman said. "But you know by looking she's a tough sell. Ask for a few minutes of her time, offer a free gift, blah blah blah, she asks if you want to talk on the porch or come inside. What do you say?"
I shrugged. "Go inside?"
Roman smiled at me, his gold tooth showing. Then he raised up his arms and started gyrating, circling his hands, twisting side to side from the waist like some Egyptian snake dancer. "Oh that's up to you ma'am. I'm completely flexible." He stopped his dance. "You get it? The slightest giggle from that woman, the least baby smile, and bammoney in your pocket."
"Wonderful, Roman," my mother said, shaking out a pillowcase.
He ignored her. "There might be a quiz over this material," he said.
Gladys shook her head. "Roman, stop putting these ideas in his mind. Gabe, look at me. Promise me you won't go chasing after money. This is important to me."
"Okay," I said, and shrugged. I was sixteen and life held little weight. I could promise anything to anybody.
Roman picked up the spring-loaded hand grips and began squeezing them. His arms had expanded in the three weeks he'd been lifting, but without the definition of muscle, like Mr. America on the box. They grew instead like loaves of bread, thick and doughy, his chest barreling outward. He was quickly approaching being able to press his weight.
"All right, son, here comes math and philosophy at one crack. Just suppose I told you I only sold one Mr. America kit in the last two weeks. Sixty bucks commish take away gas and oil with the trunk loaded down leaves about twenty bucks, half a month's work, divided fifty hours a week. Then suppose I said this meant the light bill wouldn't get paid, our credit is going to shit, and no food. Then you think you could say that money is important?"
My mother dropped her skirt on the floor. "Roman, not again. Please not again." Unpaid bills were usually the topic of the muffled arguments I heard through their bedroom wall.
He waved his hand, the grips jingling. "Purely hypothetical. What do you say, son?"
As I started to answer, Gladys picked up the flowered skirt, crushed it into a ball, and threw it across the basement against the underside of the stairs. It dangled there, caught on a splinter. In two strides she made it across the room and punched Roman hard in the shoulder.
"Goddamn it, Roman. You stop this. I want you to tell me."
He looked at her and rubbed his shoulder. "Everything's taken care of, Gladys. Don't worry."
I understood enough of their marital code to know that this meant trouble, that my mother would have to take a temp job again, usually working in the ice cream warehouse at United Dairy. I knew that they would have a yard sale and I'd be forced to pitch in something, old roller skates or eight-tracks I didn't listen to anymore. On top of all that, I knew that Roman had an amazing aptitude for losing jobs and that Gladys hated it more every time it happened. Among the other leftovers on our basement shelves we had a dozen dust-covered green lawn chairs woven with a product called Supra-Webbing. Roman had done well one summer selling them on a commission-only deal for the inventor, who, to prove his product, had tied a length of the webbing to the bumper of his truck and pulled down a rotted fifty-foot silo on his farm near Asheboro. Going door to door, Roman carried with him color photos of the silo crashing in the gravel lot, and sold fourteen boxes of chairs his first week out. The second week he took me with him, to drive him around (I was fourteen at the time). He decided to target the Bermuda Run Extended Care Facility. This had been Roman's brainstorm, to sell chairs and webbing replacement service contracts to every retirement village and nursing home in the state, places, he said, where everyone had nothing to do all day but sit. He liked his idea so much that he called Paulie Mathers, the Lincoln dealer, and put in an order for a new baby-blue Continental with electric windows, pecan trim, leatherette seats, and whitewalls.
The manager of Bermuda Run was a middle-aged, overweight woman in a green flowered housedress with Kool 100s sticking out of the pocket. As Roman worked his way through his pitch, she examined the lawn chairs, blowing smoke through her nostrils, and said in her tiny voice that they looked "flimsy."
My father handed her the pictures again. "Look at that silo, Margaret. Flimsy? Time and the weather can't knock the damn thing down. Pardon my French. No problem for Supra-Webbing. After we did this experiment we made chairs from this very webbing didn't want to waste anyand those are the very chairs I use in my home today."
She picked up one of the chairs and shook it, her other hand holding the photos and her cigarette. "I don't know. You think they would hold me?"
Roman looked furtively around the room. "Margaret, I'm not supposed to divulge this, but NASA has contacted us about Supra-Webbing, for moon landings, space module parachutes, top secret programs, that sort of thing. This was the first lawn chair on the moon."
She studied the photos of the downed silo. "Do you think that's real, or they staged it?"
"The pictures don't lie. The silo was estimated to weigh three tons."
"No, I mean that whole man on the moon thing. Some people say it was a movie set."
Roman hesitated. "I can't say I've thought about it."
"'Cause if it was a movie I had no business getting up at two a.m. to watch. Wouldn't get up at that hour for Tyrone Power."
Roman bit his lip and glanced at me. He'd been thrown off his rhythm, as important to him in his pitch as to a major leaguer hurling a fastball.
"Margaret, these chairs are so comfortable that in my very own home we've given away the couch. Gave it away to charity. They're what we, my family and I, personally sit in." He lowered his voice. "Look at my son over there."
This was the solemn part of the sell, where Roman could somehow link lawn chairs (or electric can openers or aluminum siding) to the health and potential of America's youth.
Margaret looked at me and smiled, blowing smoke through her nose.
"You think I'd trust his safety and comfort to any lawn chair?" Roman asked.
She laughed at him.
Laughed out loud, her mouth exploding in smoke and noise, laughed without a joke. Everyone who got pitched laughed at some point, at the corny, front-porch stories Roman told, at the audacity of the pitch, at their own willingness to be carried along. According to Roman, after people bought something, they loved the person who had sold it to them. But Margaret, this woman in the flowered housedress, had stepped outside all that, forgotten her function as customer, blown her unwritten lines. My father called this "breaking the bubble."
Roman's face reddened. "Ben Franklin was a very wise man, I think you'll agree, Margaret."
I nearly laughed at him myself. The Ben Franklin close was a last resort, an amateur's way out, a spitball. Even I knew she was nowhere near closing.
Roman pressed on. "Ben Franklin, faced with a tough decision, would do a typically wise thing, Margaret. He'd sit and make a list of all the positives and all the negatives, then see which outweighed the other and go with that."
He drew pen and paper from his jacket. "Number one, you said you like the color of the chairs. That's a positive." He wrote it down. "Number two, you like the superior strength."
She frowned. "I never said that, Mr. Strickland."
He ignored her. "Number three ..."
Margaret looked at me. "You know he fathered thirteen illegitimate children? Read it in the World Examiner."
I froze, convinced for a moment she was talking about Roman.
"I don't call that very wise," she said to Roman.
He began to put away his photos and samples, cramming them into his bag, winding the Supra-Webbing samples into tight rolls.
"You call if you change your mind," he said.
She shook her head. "I just don't think they'd hold me," she said, as if her decision had hinged on this point. It was the moment we should have walked out, but Roman, as ever, had to have the last word.
"They might hold you, lady," he said. "The question is, why in hell would they want to? I mean, I sure as hell wouldn't want to hold you. I'm sure your husband doesn't."
"Dad," I said.
He looked at me. "Can you think of anyone, Gabe? So maybe you're right, Margaret. Why should we pick on these poor chairs?"
In the parking lot he stopped and stood by his car, just staring off.
"You shouldn't have said that," I told him. "You blew it."
"I know it, Gabe. I know it." He scratched his head. "If they would just be quiet and listen, then I could tell them what they need, they could buy it, we'd all be happy."
"But they don't have to listen. You always forget that."
"No, you're right, son. We're living in a fallen world, and they don't have to listen." He smiled at me, then walked back inside, apologized, and gave Margaret one of the sample Supra-Webbing chairs. But it was too late for apologies. The next morning she had called and complained to his boss, and before lunchtime that day he'd been fired and had canceled his order for the Lincoln. For Roman, another routine week.
Gladys hit him with her fist again, softer this time. "I mean it, Roman. If you do this to us again, something's going to change." She shook her head. "I can't live this way."
"Mom, he said everything's under control."
"You're smarter than that, Gabe. You've lived here sixteen years." She looked at my father, who had the towel draped like a turban over his head. "tell me, right now," she said.
"If you keep disturbing the class," Roman said, "I'll have to take you upstairs for a paddling."
He possessed a salesman's sense of timing, where a bad joke could break the ice, where pushing too hard could force the deal, where walking away was always possible. None of this worked at home, with her.
My mother stared at him, not wanting to let him off this time, wanting, I could tell, some real threat behind her words. She wanted to be able to dock his pay, to assign him a shit territory, to fire himsomething he could understand. Instead she turned and stomped up the stairs above us, leaving her iron smoldering on the washer, burning through my father's bowling pin tie.
"So what's your answer, son?"
I stepped and lifted the iron, shut it off. "I guess the money's pretty important," I said.
He smiled and opened his hands to flex the muscles in his forearms, the odor of burned polyester all around us.
Roman gave up the Mr. America kits after having to have the rear shocks replaced in the Chevy, and went back to household products. He hated household products because they were always steady sellers. You would never lose money, he saidhousewives always needed oven cleaner and vegetable brushesbut by the same token you could never make money either. Not real money. In Georgia during the early sixties, he had a job selling Bibles door to door to the wives of cotton farmers and factory workers. He hit on a town called Byleah the morning after the Reverend Bobby Mortimer had blazed through with his tent revival, one long night of hellfire, healed goiters, and dyslexic schoolchildren cured of their demons. So after three and a half weeks of break-even, Roman pulled into town with his trunkload of gold-embossed red-letter Bibles and sold out in just over two days. He ordered more, loaded his car from the front seats back, got his hands on Bobby Mortimer's schedule, and followed that tent revival twelve hundred miles across the South, sweeping in behind like he was God-sent, selling Bibles without opening his mouth, pulling down fifteen hundred a month for almost half a year.
But nothing like that was possible with household products. "No matter how you look at foaming bathroom spray," he said to me once, "God's just not in it." And no challenge in pushing the products either; women were either out of cleaners or toothbrushes or they weren't, and he could please come back in a month.
"Take something like space-age lawn chairs, Gabe," he said to me, "or a framed copy of the Declaration of Independence." He shook his head. "There, you create a need, make it out of nothing, where it never existed before you opened your mouth."
He believed in the sale, lived his life in dedication to it. Once, to prove a point to Gladys, he bought up six cases of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, then went around the neighborhood in his shirtsleeves, hat tipped back, and in three hours sold all six cases for double price. He gave the money to my mother. God only knows what he told the people who bought them.
So he came back to household products the way you come back to bad love. He sold them only because it appeased my mother, who seemed to like the idea of paying bills on time. Within a few weeks she'd managed to stock the freezer with hamburger and to get our couch and console stereo back from the repossessors. She was happy during that time, happy that she'd avoided part-time work at United Dairy, happy that my father was assigned local territory, that the paychecks were regular. This stirred Roman's belief that it was the money making her happy, instead of just the steadiness. He believed too that more money meant more happiness. This was his way of thinking: if he had a headache, he swallowed four aspirin, thinking this would cut his recovery time in half. Household products offered stability, so there had to be a way to squeeze even more stability out of them, if only, he said, you're willing to roll the dice a little and shake things up.
Roman began his next set of twenty reps, speaking in grunts and expelled breaths. "It's a matter of pushing harder," he said. I was spotting for him and reading aloud from Winning As a Way of Life, which had arrived two days before with my mother's book club selection, and which he'd already underlined and dog-eared. The book consisted of easy-to-remember rhyming homilies on the subjects of selling, winning, and making money ("If you want to earn your dough, get up in the morning and GO, GO, GO!"). Gladys was upstairs somewhere, working on a poem based on Billy Graham's new book, Angels: God's Secret Agents, which had been her monthly book club selection.
"But you told me demand was a constant," I said. "Either you have stuff to clean your oven or you don't."
He grunted, dropping the bar on its rests. "Read that last sentence again," he said.
"'Though we might use emotion, devotion, or some secret potion, nothing does more than old-fashioned promotion.'" I looked down at him.
"See my point? It's all advertising, Gabe. Just look at your Uncle Dutch. Son of a bitch couldn't sell shit to a green fly, but look at the business he does."
Uncle Dutch was older than Roman by six years. He owned a Ford and Plymouth dealership on the outskirts of Kernersville where he had five acres of new cars and an OK Used Car lot. Ads for his dealership ran on late-night TV during Twilight Theater, for which he was the sponsor. Gladys was the only one who still got excited when his new ads ran. The commercials always featured Dutch doing things like jumping out of an airplane dressed as a turkey, or sitting atop one of his billboards on the highway, wearing a tuxedo and eating dinner by candlelight. In the latest ad, one of his Plymouth Furys had been immersed in a glass water tank, and Dutch sat behind the wheel wearing scuba equipment, waving at the camera. The joke of every ad was that Dutch never smiled, played everything with a serious deadpan, as if all these things had been done to him and he was the hapless victim of some prank. In truth, Dutch was as serious as he seemed; he had no discernible sense of humor. The stunts were designed by his advertising agency and he went along only because they sold cars and put money in his accounts. He was as rich as Roman wanted to be. Everywhere across three counties were the billboards of Dutch's solemn face, his black hair and silver sideburns, white suitcoats and brown ties. When I was a little kid he would come to our house for a visit once a year at Christmas, but at age forty-three he had married Miss North Carolina, and afterward the two of them spent Christmas in Las Vegas. Three years later Miss North Carolina divorced him, and for a year after that Roman worked for him selling cars. Roman quit finally, saying that it bothered his conscience to sell a Plymouth to anyone. The real reason, I knew, was that he didn't like having to work for his brother.
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I read this title on the strength of a Washington Post review, which compared the book to HUCK FINN. Big shoes to fill, but I have to say I was not disappointed. MONEY, LOVE is funny, irreverent, and big hearted. A first-rate book, especially given that it is a first novel. One of the best I've read this year.
Money, Love is the most satisfying novel I've read in years. It is wickedly funny, yet these characters are fully drawn and complex. You will recognize bits of yourself in each character's quest for a meaningful life somewhere between or within or despite the mythically powerful forces of the title. I've shared Money, Love with several friends, whose only complaint has been that the novel had to end. Money and love-- we always want more. I am amazed that this is Mr. Barkley's first novel. A stunning debut indeed! When will his next novel be available?