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Rich Boy

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  999 ratings  ·  150 reviews
Robert Vishniak is the favored son of Oxford Circle, a working-class Jewish neighborhood in 1970s Philadelphia. Handsome and clever, Robert glides into the cloistered universities of New England, where scions of unimaginable wealth and influence stand shoulder to shoulder with scholarship paupers like himself who wash dishes for book money. The doors that open there lead R ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published August 2nd 2010 by Twelve (first published January 1st 2010)
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I suffered a little heartbreak last night as I turned the last page of this wonderful novel; for the first time, I had to fight the urge to go back to page one and begin again. I've enjoyed many other novels and memoirs that present some version of the story presented here: an American boy's (hmm, it's never a girl) rise from poverty into the upper socio-economic class by dint of hard work, education and a hefty dose of ambition (e.g., Tobias Wolff's "This Boy's Life," Tom Perotta's "Joe College ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
This is pure escapist fun without being trashy. The story's approach and focus reminds me a lot of Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar, and more than a cut above Shaw's Rich Man, Poor Man. High-end chick lit, or in this case, lad-lit. But Pomerantz has a fertile sense of place and era that wafts of historical fiction. I visualized the sensual transformation of New York City from what it was in post-WW II through to the mid-1980's. No skimping on the details of the rise of modern Manhattan, such a ...more
Cecilia Solis-sublette
A novel that follows the life of a lower middle class protagonist who eventually finds himself rich - through hard work and social connections, this novel is a great character and societal study. The comment on how the class system of American society works is somewhat cynical but necessarily so, I think. Essentially, Robert is able to find his way out of Oxford Circle because he is blessed with good intelligence and very good looks. Are those the keys to the kingdom? Because, even his intellige ...more
Becky Sandham Mathwin
A well-written page turner. Very entertaining-one of those "I couldn't put it down" sort of books. The novel follows the "trials and tribulations" of a young man from a working class family who achieves financial success and enters into the world of the very wealthy. I'd put it in the class of fiction I call High Brow Soap Opera (well written with good use of vocabulary but soap opera-esque in terms of narrative...the kind of fiction that I tend to enjoy the most!). I liked that the story "spann ...more
Will someone please read this fantastic book so I can talk to them about it?? Something of a modern Gatsby though I hate to compare anything to that perfect American classic. Pomerantz mentions Min Jin Lee being very helpful during the editing process (or writing?) and I can see similiarities to Free Food for Millionaires, which was also great. I couldn't wait to find out what happened but at the same didn't want it to end.
Robert Vishniak, the main protagonist, was born after WW11 in a lower middle-class Jewish family and raised in Philadelphia. His parents raised him and his younger brother, Barry, with a strong hand and did without to guide the boys in the upward direction in all ways. They were raised to be hard workers and hard thinkers. Robert manages to get into a Boston college in the mid-sixties, where he becomes fast friends with his very wealthy roommate, Tracey. He experiences people who come from great ...more
Kasa Cotugno
This is the type of novel I couldn't get enough of about 30 years ago. The saga of a self made man who manages to rise to the top of whatever pinnacle he aspires to provided much enjoyment, and in the right hands, insight. The progression of coming of age, discovery of worlds beyond the hero's early life, his means of accomplishing success (and it was always "he"), provided escapism and at least in some cases, voyeuristic fun. But there was always some payoff, and while this is a well written no ...more
I slogged through 300 pages and gave up. This is one of the most old-fashioned books I've read in years, and I don't mean "good old-fashioned" like Austen or Hemingway but "clunky old-fashioned," like something written in about 1965 and later shrunk down into a Reader's Digest Condensed Book. It reminded me a lot of Irwin Shaw or Herman Wouk -- sprawling narratives, rags to riches stories, a complete absence of humor or self-awareness. It also has ridiculous dialogue. Today a curious coworker gr ...more
Randi Reisfeld
What I loved most about this been-told-before story of a Jewish boy from humble beginnings who reaches rarified heights via his brains, looks, determination -- and a wealth wife -- was the depiction of the protagonist's humble beginnings. He grew up in a brick row house with seemingly the exact same layout as the one I spent formative years in. The mishegonah cast of characters -- family, neighbors, relatives, friends, rivals and girls -- was so very familiar and fully realized. The book was way ...more
I enjoyed this wonderful novel enormously. Robert Vishniak is born & raised in the northeast of Philadelphia, in the 50s & 60s, in a milieu not completely unlike what my husband grew up in. We follow him as he goes out into the world (i.e., Boston, New York, &c.) The author subtly captures details of different lives & different decades, without being obvious about it. Warm & humanly appealing.
A really excellent first novel, which follows the main character out of his lower-class 1960's Jewish neighborhood, to college wherein he becomes entangled with a group of friends that, unlike him, are all very wealthy. The book is basically a character study, and it is fast-paced and pleasant to follow the main character into his 40s while he makes both wise and poor decisions.
Karen Bergreen
If Marjorie Morningstar and Free Food for Millionaires gave birth, it would be Rich Boy. I read this book in a day, a dreary rainy day. The best day I have had in months. If you like escapist epic family sagas, this is great. The book is incredibly readable, fun characters. I felt Robert had less depth than I would have liked, but the plot needed to move. Fun fun fun
Rich Boy is a coming-of-age story, and it is wonderfully done. Robert grows up to poor, immigrant, penny-pinching, Jewish parents in Oxford Circle, Philadelphia. His mother Stacia is stern and stingy, his father Vishniak is an overworked postal carrier. Robert is handsome and charismatic and begins enchanting girls from a young age. Much of his story revolves around his relationships with women. Robert vows to leave his parents' home and his neighborhood, wanting to escape the polarized communit ...more
Rich Boy, by Sharon Pomerantz, is a wothwhile ead, and the reader is cognizant that success is a primary concern for the protagonist, Robert Vishniak, as he aspires to gain favors that will allow him to move up in the societal stratum.

Vishniak is from a working class Jewish family who live in Philadelphia. Money is a primary concern for the Vishniaks, and it is apparant from the frugal life they lead. Vishniak is self-indulgent, and with a handsomeness, charm, and superficial exterior. His mothe
Family sagas have long been a staple among American best-sellers; the examples are wide and vast, The very predictability of the family saga genre promises an absorbing yet familiar reading experience: the once-poor yet highly attractive and charismatic main character who overcomes all kinds of adversities, goes through heartbreak and scandal, and then emerges older, wiser, and in most cases, wealthier than before (or at the very least, with enough knowledge to BECOME wealthier).

Sharon Pomerantz
Debbie Maskus
A coming-of-age story set in New York spanning 1980-1990. Many times I wondered the point of the discussion, such as the erotia art that Stacia(the mother) had hanging all over the house. Gwendolyn seemed to be the Greek chorus or the social conscience, and would explain people and events that Robert could not understand, then like a chorus she fades. I felt that the beginning of the story seemed like early 20th century, and I had a difficult time adjusting to the Viet Nam Era that seemed to arr ...more
While working as a bookseller at Borders, I picked up this book because the cover was interesting. I am so glad I did! It was an excellent story with crisp, interesting characters. I would highly recommend it. The story is basically about Robert Vishniak, a Jewish guy, from birth until middle-age. The author deftly wove in the history of the day as Robert grew up. Robert came from very humble beginnings but wanted more. He got it...but did he hold onto it? I won't reveal the ending, but it is a ...more
I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. I could not relate to the characters except for references to their Jewish Culture. I was annoyed at them in Part I, at the relationships, at the choices they made, but was more excited by Part II. Some it was predictable in the sense that as the story unfolded I said to myself "yeah, I knew that, or I thought so." Part III was even more intense and engaging. I ended up really enjoying this book, found it very interesting, in spite of myself! I would ...more
Robert grows up in a working class Jewish neighborhood in Philadelphia- he is bright, good looking and ambitious. He does everything he can to get out of that life: college, marries money, spends most of his time trying to be what he is not. A meeting with a young woman from the old neighborhood forces him to reevaluate his choices.
A bit of an ambiguous ending, but I truly enjoyed this fast-paced story about a very handsome young Jewish man from humble beginnings who is able to navigate through the "waspy" social stronghold of Ivy League Universities and New York society from the 1960s through the 1980s.
Marty Durham
loved the understanding of the characters that I got from reading this book. Living in a resort town this was enlightening and a good story. Wish I knew how the main character lived his next chapter in life but the author made me imagine that part.
Very fun story. Reads like a soap opera,but was so engaging it was hard to put down.Tells the story of a Jewish male growing up during the 50's & 60's, and his transformation in the 70's & 80's to a lawyer in NYC.Not Shakespeare but alot of fun.
Diane Newberry
If a great novel is the filet mignon at The Capitol Grille, this book is the New York Strip at Outback Steakhouse: perfectly enjoyable and adequately made, but it's just missing that extra something that makes it special...

I can't quite place my finger on it, but this book just didn't satisfy me in the way that I felt like it should. Particularly the ending. The third act was easily the book's best portion and its momentum made me feel as if we were finally going to reach some wonderful revelato
E. Ilana Diamant
Nice story, definitely a page-turner, if that's what you're looking for. I'm not. Good literature is not about page-turning story telling, rather, about insightful storytelling. ie., stories with insights about the "human condition" however broadly or narrowly the author wishes to conceive of it. This novel has no insights. A lot of information and historical accuracy about the era in which its stories unfold. Fair enough, but that's no real literature. Ask yourself, how has this novel challenge ...more
This novel was fine, nothing wrong with it at all, but just didn’t really do it for me. A Jewish mailman’s son in a working class Philadelphia suburb in the 1950s uses his looks and his smarts to “get somewhere” in life. The book follows his life as a youth in the ‘50s, through high school and college in the ‘60s, as a law student and young professional in the ‘70s, and then as a married man and father in the ‘80s. The central conceit was supposed to be: Jewish boy rises up to be successful in W ...more
it took me a little bit to get my thoughts together about this book. i definitely was engaged in it when i was reading it, and looked at it as more "real" literature rather than just fiction pleasure reading. i mean, you're dealing with big topics here. the writing is overall really strong. however, at the end of the book, i was left feeling a little adrift about the whole thing. maybe that is how i was supposed to feel? i also will mention that i literally had to walk away from the book for sev ...more
‘Rich Boy’ is a coming of age story of a middle class Jewish boy, Robert Vishniak, who grows up in a Philadelphia neighborhood and successfully graduates from college and eventually law school. It is a story of family relationships, friendships, lovers and marriage and the complexities that weave them all together. Although Robert has such high aspirations to find true happiness in achieving the status of partner in his father-in-law’s law firm, the story reveals that he has to come full circle ...more
I struggled with this book. It was about 200 pages too long and very slow. I kept waiting for something to stir it up to no avail. I wanted to like it and was determined to finish it, due to the rave reviews I read here. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me. Blah.....
To me, this book was a just okay...but not one of my MUST READS.The book is about a boy/man who wants to gain his level into being upper class instead of where he came from. To me it was dark in a lot of places. This was not a "feel good" book for my liking.
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Sharon Pomerantz's fiction has appeared in a variety of journals, including Ploughshares, the Missouri Review, and Prairie Schooner. In 2003, her story "Ghost Knife" was included in Best American Short Stories 2003. In 1998, her story "Shoes" was read on Selected Shorts at Symphony Space and broadcast nationally. Rich Boy is her first novel and will be out in August of 2010 from Twelve (Twelvebook ...more
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“But when he saw Gwendolyn's father, he immediately knew that he was Jewish, in the way that Jews recognize each other, as if with a sixth sense.” 3 likes
“I don't mean to smear our people, but honestly, sometimes I thought the Jews were the worst. Not all, but you know the ones I'm talking about - they weren't like the kids in Oxford Circle, that’s for sure. You sent me off totally fucking unprepared, brother. Not a word of warning. Their doctor and dentist parents worked their way through school, but now they want their babies to go in style. They send them stereos and cars and blank checks. And those were the hippies! Running around in their flowing clothes, their noses surgically tilted in the air! Talking about oppression and the common man, and running off to volunteer at some job, calling it righteous because they don’t have to earn money. Or my favorite, going to summer camp until they’re like forty-five. You’re not a socialist because you sleep in a log cabin and dance in a circle! And who are they angry at, really angry at? Not the Man – they wouldn’t know the Man if he froze their Bloomingdale’s charge cards. No, they’re angry at their parents! The people who fund all this in the first place. If they don’t want their parents, send them my way. I’ve been looking all my life for someone to wipe my ass and pay my bills.” 1 likes
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