The Rich Part of Life

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Eleven-year-old Teddy Pappas, the first person narrator of The Rich Part of Life, is a keen observer of family dynamics and his own maturing feelings. He and his little brother Tommy, age five, severely miss their vivacious young mother, killed in a car accident the previous year. Their middle-aged father, never much of a talker or participant in their lives, has withdrawn almost totally into his devotion to the history of the Civil War. On the anniversary of his wife's death, Teddy's father inexplicably buys his first lottery ticket, using the number she had always used, and is stunned when the payoff is $190 million.

Enormous changes are inevitable, and the first thing Theo Pappas must do is to hire a bodyguard for his two sons. His aged aunt comes to live with them, handling the invasive press and the thousands of money seekers who call, write, and otherwise disrupt, including someone leaving an infant on their doorstep.

The cast of characters keeps broadening. Teddy's Uncle Frank comes to stay, followed by an aging actor who had played the lead in Frank's unsuccessful vampire movies. The sexy next-door divorcee sets out to woo Teddy's father. Most upsetting of all, a young man comes to claim Teddy as his own son, which in fact is true, although Teddy had never been told.

The odds against Theo Pappas emerging as a functioning parent are almost as remote as his winning the lottery, but somehow, especially with Teddy's sensitive attentions, the truly "rich part of life" emerges. Jim Kokoris has produced a fine first novel.