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Moral Hazard

Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings
6 reviews (2002) (192p)
LA Times Book Prize for Fiction

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Book Description
On Wall Street, reflects Cath, women are about as welcome as fleas in a sleeping bag. Funny, liberal and left-leaning, she is an unlikely candidate to be writing speeches on derivatives in a Manhattan tower, 'putting words in the mouths of plutocrats deeply suspicious of metaphors and words of more than two syllables'. She finds herself on Wall Street because she needs serious money. After ten good years, her beloved older husband Bailey is suffering from Alzheimer's. So begins Cath's journey into two nightmare worlds. By day she deals with the topsy-turvy logic and ingrown personalities at work in high finance; by night she has to watch the slow disintegration of the man she loves. In between, she must stop herself from falling apart. As the money markets hurtle towards financial meltdown, Cath faces personal disaster and a moral hazard that she cannot ignore. Kate Jennings' prose is lean yet rich in unexpected, telling detail. Tense, taut and compulsively readable, Moral Hazard is peopled by extraordinary characters and informed by a mordant, witty intelligence. Review
Kate Jennings's first novel, Snake, was praised for combining "dry comedy" and "genuine heartbreak"; now she has used the same sweet-and-sour recipe in her second book, Moral Hazard--but with even more raw ingredients. The heroine is thirtysomething Cath, a smiling, punning, do-gooding bien pensant who has somehow ended up in the vicious purlieus of Wall Street, dealing billions with the great white sharks of high finance. This unfeasibly high-powered employ contrasts sharply with Cath's home life. She's married to a man 25 years her senior: "sweet Bailey, dearest Bailey... optimistic where I was pessimistic, enthusiastic where I was distrustful." This marriage is not perfect: as Cath mordantly observes, "marriage is awful in its nearness. Yoked together, bound, in a three-legged race with no finishing line." Nevertheless Cath and Bailey, in their May/December way, have found a kind of happiness. Then, horribly, Bailey is diagnosed with Alzheimer's....

Three chapters in we learn this terrible truth, and the rest of the book concerns Cath's desperate, affecting, sardonic, resolute ways and means of dealing with Bailey's rollercoaster ride to the inevitable--or even worse. It's not an easy journey; this is not the easiest of books. What largely rescues the whole from being a whiny or self-pitying lament is the prose: humorous, energetic, sharp, urbane, and vivid. --Sean Thomas,

Kate Jennings Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 0  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 0  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


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