In her novel The Widow of Wall Street, Randy Susan Meyers creates the fictional version of one couple’s rise to elite society and their fall into public shame. The plot generally follows the true story of a Bernie Madoff type Ponzi scheme, including the ambition and narcissism that got him, in this case “Jake” so deep into a massive financial crime. In an article Meyers wrote for on the research she did in preparation to write The Widow of Wall Street, she says, “During the ten years I worked with criminals, the stories they told to excuse themselves fascinated and repelled me. And I learned how every person on this earth has a story they tell to explain away bad behavior—even if only to themselves.”
Also central to the story, however, is Jake’s wife, Phoebe, who can be counted among the victims of Jake’s destructive lies. Or was she an accomplice? The question of whether Phoebe knew the truth about Jake’s “genius” investment strategy is one the reader will wonder from the start, but as Phoebe’s story unfolds, we quickly know the answer is no and we move on to more interesting emotional mysteries.
How can a wife be that much in the dark about her husband? What motivates a spouse to stay in the marriage after such an unimaginable betrayal? How can a family survive after a crisis like this, especially one that is so public? Do you stand by your husband or your grown children? And as it pertains to Jake, what makes someone so desperate to succeed that he’s willing to ruin so many lives? Meyers alternates the storytelling between Phoebe’s and Jake’s viewpoints as the reader works through these implied questions.
To quote my mother who read a copy I bought her for Mother’s Day, “The whole story made me so tense even though I knew how it would end.” I agree. If you know the Madoff story, you know the ending of The Widow of Wall Street. Even if you’re less familiar with that scandal, Meyers begins the novel with Phoebe visiting Jake in jail so the mystery of the novel is not whether Jake is guilty. Rather, it is why and how he committed the crime and how Phoebe and her children deal with the truth.
The Widow of Wall Street is a book full of conflict. There is no outright violence, but the story still has elements of a thriller as the reader waits for the entire scheme to crash.
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