Fifty Millions Reasons is the latest in Heather Wardell’s Toronto series. And no, it is not just a figure of speech. The title has more depth of meaning than that.
Angela writes for a wine magazine and lives a simple life. She has just come through a life changing illness and is trying to adjust to the prospect of never being a mother. She loves the kid next door, or two floors up to be precise. Zack and his divorced dad are both video games fanatics and Angela spends a lot of time gaming with them. Until her world turns upside down when she wins the lottery.
Winning fifty million bucks changes Angela’s life like she never dreamed before. Her wise financial advisor cautions her to lay off on giving away too much money. People surround and follow her in throngs. Everyone feels they are entitled to her money, just because she got it by ‘doing nothing’. She buys a top cruise for her parents who happily accept. Some of her siblings are unhappy with the amount of money she has given them, while some refuse to accept anything.
An old flame turns up asking for a share banking on a decade old relationship. Angela is so hurt and confused by it all that she hardly has time to enjoy her money. Was it really worth running scared for her life, hiding in public and changing her appearance every few days?
Fifty Million Reasons tries to peep into the life of a lottery winner. Since I never won the mega million or the Powerball or any other jackpot, I have no idea whether what the character goes through is typical or not. It all sounds interesting initially, but then the story begins to drag a little because it is the same thing over and over again.
Angela learns her neighbor and friend John has a murky past. Is he trying to manipulate her while maintaining a cool façade? What about her old beau? How does the reader know he does not have any ulterior motive? As you read on, you feel that Angela might go insane.
I did not really agree with some of the premises made in the book. Like the fact that Angela should read each and every letter demanding money and choose one worthy recipient. Being philanthropic is fine, helping others in need is fine, and so is being there for your friends and family. Angela offers to pay for everything from pizza to medical treatments, just because she has come into money. Compare that with a rich friend or relative – I am sure everyone has one. Do they pay for every need of yours just because they have much more than you, or pay your bills because they have millions? Then why should a lottery winner be any different?
Anyone who finds sudden wealth has a lot of challenges. I think the toughest might be how not to blow it all in a short time. But the main character in our story faces a completely different one. How much to give, whom to give it to and how to decide.
I applaud Heather Wardell for taking a topic which few have experience with first hand, and then weaving an emotional story around it. Like with Seven Exes, I read this book because it is different, if not for any other reason!