by T E Stazyk
This book relates the experiences of three young men, school buddies, and their progress through their postgraduate lives in New York City.
There is Ridge, a very right wing businessman intent on carving out a career in a major consulting firm. He has a girlfriend, Julia, from a mega-rich family who moves in all the ‘right’ circles and to whom money has no meaning, because her father provides more than she could ever spend. Ridge’s view of anyone who is poor or unemployed is that they are lazy and useless. Taxation is theft by the government in order to transfer wealth to the poor.
Then there is Paul, also a corporate climber, but who is much more moderate, and has a partner, Michelle, who is an HR consultant also for a major company. Paul’s company has some policies that are more enlightened that those proclaimed by Ridge’s firm.
The final member of the trio is Ben, a history teacher at a community college, teaching civics and history to people trying to break out of the vicious cycle of unskilled jobs provided by companies that see the only way to make more money is to grind down their workers by cutting hours and removing benefits. Ben is idealistic and loves to debate with Paul and Ridge the ethics and morals of their consulting projects which often involve making people redundant. Ben has a friend Asha who is a lawyer working for a social agency dealing with women’s refuges.
Ridge progresses well in his job by agreeing with everything his bosses say, until he is given responsibility for overseeing a project that attempts to factor in the real environmental impact of doing business. How he copes and changes when the bean-counters interfere with the project, and how the conspicuous consumption of Julia affects his outlook on life, are the drivers of his story.
Paul is required to undertake an aid project in Laos and comes back from that experience a changed man. He questions the effect that aid has on the local population and sees no need for capital intensive intervention in the Laotian state. He worries that his views may make him unpopular with his firm.
Ben has had to live with the insecurity of having a non-tenured position in a college facing funding cuts because his subjects do not fit the model of producing workers for industry. However, he persists in giving what he can to his pupils, and is very popular with them.
How these three resolve all the issues facing them makes a satisfying story, and there are twists in the story line.
The characters may seem a little too stereotyped, and some of the attitudes of the firms employing them are a little too forced, but this may be because there is not space in a small book to delve deeper into their characters, and they do illustrate the story.
The book jumps between narratives from each of the men and although this could become disjointed, in this case it works well. It is a very topical book, citing the Brexit event in the UK and the rise to power of big business in the United States. It raises some interesting topics regarding the environment and also such issues such as a universal minimum wage and the social responsibilities of big business.
This is a book that makes the reader examine how one regards social issues and attitudes to the environment, and as such makes a good read. I recommend it.
By: T. E. Stazyk
RRP: Paperback NZ$ 25.00, ebook NZ$ 8.00
Available as a paperback or ebook from Amazon and Amazon Kindle and as a paperback from The Book Depository; also via Auckland Library.