Phoebe recognizes fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers. As he creates a financial dynasty, she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.
When Phoebe learns her husband’s triumph and vast reach rests on an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Was she his accomplice?
While Jake is trapped in the web of his deceit, Phoebe is caught in an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning him feels cruel and impossible.
My Thoughts: The story that unfolds in The Widow of Wall Street is not as shocking as it once might have been, since other men have also betrayed their investors and their families. What sets this story apart is how we very slowly come to know Jake and Phoebe via their alternating voices, from their teen years until their world fell apart.
From the beginning, though, and probably knowing how the story would end, I disliked Jake, who tried to get by on charm and tall tales. Admittedly, Phoebe had also kept a big secret from Jake through their whole lives together, but she paid her dues by taking care of him, the family, and bowing to his wishes most of the time. Having luxuries cannot make up for what one loses in confidence by having a spouse who belittles, makes demands, and hides the most basic things from his wife.
We follow Jake and Phoebe through their lives in a linear fashion, which felt a bit like a very slow reveal at times, but my interest perked up after Jake’s sins were finally out in the open.
In some ways, Jake got off easy, since the load of his secrets was lifted, while Phoebe was left with the stares and scorn of the public, and having to pick up the pieces of her life after losing most of her possessions. Sadness, loss, and broken connections would follow her always, but at some point, she would find a way to start over.
I liked this excerpt that reveals how those with plenty develop their sense of entitlement:
“Rich people thought themselves special, but in truth, they simply possessed extra layers of insulation against the winds of misfortune.”
Obviously, those who lose their worldly goods, their position in life, and their favor from the world around them have also lost those extra layers. A bitter truth that Phoebe discovered, through no fault of her own. An unforgettable novel, this one earned 4.5 stars.