Sort of Rich

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Gretchen has reasons for feeling like an outcast after she meets Frank Dambar in a New Orleans souvenir shop, falls in love with and marries him, leaves New York, and moves into his home in Louisiana. Her sophisticated friends disapprove of the marriage; Frank, with the help of his German housekeeper Mrs. Howard, keeps the house decorated as his deceased first wife left it (hideous rococo furniture and wall-to-wall royal blue carpet); and Frank’s handyman Leo, a long-haired holdover from the 1960’s who lives in a trailer behind Frank’s house, obviously does not like Gretchen.

Gretchen also finds reasons for paranoia. Leo was with the former Mrs. Dambar when she was killed. Did he kill her? Does he intend to kill Gretchen? Brenda, Gretchen’s psychiatrist, was Leo’s former lover and is seeing him again, although she is married and pregnant. Is she carrying Leo’s baby? And is she telling Leo what Gretchen says about him? Frank’s personal, tamper-proof relationship with Leo excludes and overshadows his with Gretchen. What hold does Leo have on him, and does it play a part in Frank’s demise? The reader might ask, too, why Leo’s coldly critical attitude toward Gretchen abruptly changes about half way through the story, and why Wilcox does not suggest causes for the transformation. It should be noted, however, that all but these last questions are answered, too heavy-handedly, in the thirteenth chapter when Brenda tells Gretchen--for the reader’s benefit--what is wrong with her and her life.

Were this funny, satirical novel a painting, it would have been done in acrylic with short strokes and stiff bristles, revealing on closer inspection that what first appeared to be a bit of flotsam, a discarded tire all but submerged, is actually an alligator.