The term for the actual word, Windfall, is put at the very front for us to immediately understand, before we wonder if this book references someone falling off a plane on a windy day: a windfall means a large sum of money brought over pretty much instantaneously. Well, this refers to when a Chicago teen originally from San Francisco named Alice goes to buy her best friend Teddy a lottery ticket for his eighteenth birthday, and this lotto max allows you to pick the numbers, and each one bears some sort of importance to both of them. Alice is an orphan who has been living with her Aunt Sofia and Uncle Jake for years ever since both her parents died a year apart from each other. They’re fine, as well as her cousin Leo, the brother she never had who’s in a relationship with a cute guy named Max from Michigan. In Leo’s life he’s struggling with the fact a school that could help carry his artist dream to the lengths he imagines could make it come true is, well, not in Michigan where Max is. Teddy, Alice’s best friend if you’ve forgotten, has had a family that’s had trouble with money, especially since their father Charlie ended up gambling away money to the point where he had to be kicked out of the house and their lives. But it turns out that one lottery ticket was a winner; not hundreds of thousands, or millions, but hundreds of millions! I guess someone has to win the lottery. Since the ticket was a gift, the money is technically Teddy’s. He says Alice should take half of the windfall but something in Alice’s gut makes her refuse, and that decision she keeps regretting and being grateful about to the point of constant nausea on her part, and she suspects one main reason is this money could forever end their friendship, and end any chances of them ever being more than best friends in the whole world.
I am a big fan of stories involving money. Money brings the devil himself to life in our minds and mouths. Wait. I don’t know if anyone’s ever said that, but I should maybe license and trademark that quote. My point is, money can do this to ourselves because, whether for one person it’s very hard to come by, and for another it’s as easy to find as actual paper, pretty much everyone holds onto it tight for themselves.
Something I didn’t expect to come out of this book was the bullying Teddy ends up receiving at school, and how it made me look at social science another way; that jealousy of a winning, as well as the belief that person does not deserve that win, and that you can’t have that win; that can make someone feel bullying them to make you feel better about yourself is justifiable. Teddy also ends up having to change his number twice because of big businesses pestering him with voicemail after voicemail. And we hear these stories of people flat-out pretending to be Teddy’s friends and sucking at it. There were various occurrences that made me feel like winning the lottery might be more trouble than its worth, a thought that never occurred to me in my entire life, at least with the angle of winning rather than beginning a ticket-buying spree.
As you may expect, Teddy’s dad Charlie ends up in the mix, which was in my opinion the best side plot in this book, and there are a lot of side plots, such as Leo and Max, Alice wanting to return to her original home and enroll at Stanford instead of going to Chicago’s Northwestern, Uncle Jake wanting to talk about what Alice’s father was like, and of course how much change has come out of Teddy’s lottery win. Well, I was expecting a Chernobyl of some kind, and there was one by the 70 percent-mark that, well...I’ve never had a family member have to leave in disgrace before, but for some reason this still hit very close to home. Maybe I’m just easily upset for kids with irresponsible parents.
Also, eventually Teddy ends up trying to be a little less wasting with his money and gives some of it away to people who need it a lot more, and that made me think about all the millionaires and billionaires in the world who have more money than they know what to do with. (Fair fact; some people will say that the rich do not want to be taxed more than the lower classes for being rich. They are wrong. The majority of these people say they don’t need their extra riches and want to have a fair amount of it given back to society when they need it.) Most greedy rich people will keep the money because of untrustworthiness to the outside world, or maybe feeling like one day they’ll really really need it, or they feel this is their only life and they want to live it up like there’s no tomorrow every day. But imagine if everyone wealthy pitched in their money to help noble causes and put a stop to the money flow in politics helping pollution, racism, xenophobia and more destroy our only home. Wouldn’t that be just marvellous? Windfall gives us a taste of what that could be like. Alice’s story about wanting to return to her original home takes some very dark turns as well, making us wonder if we would be the same way in her shoes and coming to the conclusion that yes, we’d probably be.
One significant flaw. Most of these big events end up finished up and tied in a neat little bow...yet we still have a lot more of the book to go. This book ties up all its loosest ends long before the ending is in view, putting the less loose ends not as intriguing to see tied up in the spotlight during the last quarter, and gravely making the enjoyment dip. My advice; after page 300, it’s better to just either skim or read the last two chapters. Yes, sweet stuff happens in between...but too much sapiness, not enough heart-race. By page 330, I couldn’t wait for this book to be finished.
But Windfall is a contemporary that rocks when it comes to the burdens of jealousy, fright, gratifications, and true love.
And, oh yeah, “Money brings the devil himself to life in our minds and mouths.” William McGinn, (1998- )