Sunday Books & Culture

YOUR BEST FINANCIAL LIFE: SAVE SMART NOW FOR THE FUTURE YOU WANT

By Anne Lester

Published by William Morrow (March 12, 2024)
Hardcover $26.99
Audiobook $14.99

Reviewed by David Arndt

Money is a taboo subject for some. Who really ever wants to talk about how much they make (not enough), how much they spend (way too much) or how they invest their money (what’s excess cash)?

With a majority of people living paycheck to paycheck, it’s easy to see why this topic is commonly ignored. The education system also fails in this regard, focusing on the importance of advanced placement courses and college credits over concepts of saving for retirement or ways to increase or invest money.

Anne Lester, in Your Best Financial Life: Save Smart Now for the Future You Want, opens the door and explores key financial topics to help the reader improve their financial literacy and capability, all while focusing on saving for retirement.  

The brilliance of the author’s approach is that she breaks up the basics of a financial plan for retirement into easy-to-understand elements. A former portfolio manager, she explains how 401(k)s and IRAs work as vessels for saving money to live on. She illustrates the incredible power of compound interest while also describing how and why it’s important to start saving when you are younger instead of trying to play catch up as you get older. Her language and writing style are clear and straightforward, not in the least intimidating or challenging.

The author seeks to teach the reader the importance of saving, peppering her work with relatable yet funny examples to ensure comprehension.   

The book also goes beyond the scope of just saving for retirement by outlining several additional and important steps towards financial security and peace of mind. Lester describes the importance of an emergency fund, how to plan for big life events like buying a home or saving for a child’s tuition, as well as what to do with excess cash once someone is on track for retirement.  

Lester’s constant message throughout is a message of hope: saving for the future can be done, and it is not too late to start.  Your Best Financial Life is well written and intended for anyone looking to start planning and organizing their financial future. The author depicts a lifestyle where one can live off and enjoy the benefits from the money of their labor, rather than being forced to work all their life chasing the next paycheck.

THE FETISHIST

by Katherine Min

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons (January 9, 2024)
Hardcover $22.22
Audiobook $14.99

By Drew Gallagher

The story of how The Fetishist, the second and final novel from Katherine Min, came to publication is as interesting as the novel itself.

Min had been working on the novel when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and abandoned it to shift her focus to non-fiction writing until her death in 2019. Her daughter, Kayla Min Andrews, found the manuscript on her mother’s laptop years after she had passed away. Andrews was working with a publisher in putting together a collection of Min’s essays when the publisher happened to ask if she had been working on anything else before her death, and that is when Andrews found a folder on her mother’s laptop.

What Andrews found was a nearly finished manuscript, but there were aspects that the publisher and Andrews, herself a writer, had to polish to yield the book that was released this year. The Fetishist does not read like an unfinished manuscript, and Andrews offers a helpful “Afterword” that details the journey that led to The Fetishist.

So with all of that preamble couched in the emotion of a writer passing before her time, is The Fetishist worth your time? The short and easy answer is “Yes.” 

Min’s narrative is funny and touching at times, but it is certainly a different reading experience when you know the backstory behind the novel. It is not as bleak as the story behind A Confederacy of Dunces. That novel was published only after John Kennedy Toole’s mother took the manuscript to a professor, after her son had committed suicide, and begged him to read her son’s work. Ironically, A Confederacy of Dunces is likely to be one of the funniest novels you’ll ever read and also won the Pulitzer Prize.

The Fetishist is about a playboy violinist who has an eye for Asian women who also play stringed instruments. As one of his love interests says, he suffers from “Yellow Fever” which the violinist rails against until considering that his sexual appetites prove otherwise. And in these appetites the violinist rarely considers the hurt caused by his philandering.

He lives his life relatively carefree until age and history catch up to him in the form of an Asian punk rock singer in pixie form. (She’s not really a pixie.)

The punk rock singer is the daughter of a former lover of the violinist, and she blames him for her mother’s recent suicide and vows blood revenge. The novel opens with her initial attempt to murder the violinist on the streets of Baltimore only to be thwarted by an unwieldy umbrella.

Not to be deterred, she hatches a plot to kidnap the violinist and enlists the help of her hulking boyfriend to subdue him. Subduing the violinist proves relatively easy though, because the violinist was in the middle of trying to kill himself in his garage by carbon monoxide poisoning when the daughter and boyfriend find him.

Min details the problems with housing a kidnapped violinist in a dank basement to comedic effect, but also fills in a tender back story on the violinist while offering a parallel plotline with the cellist who could have been the love of his life except for the philandering part. Has there ever been a greater muse than nostalgia?  

There is a lot of death in The Fetishist (three separate suicides within the first few pages), but there is also a lot of warmth. And perhaps it can be read as a fitting tribute to Katherine Min.

If the takeaway from The Fetishist is to find joy and forgiveness in the face of death, then this novel is a major success. 

Drew Gallagher is a freelance writer residing in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He is the second-most-prolific book reviewer and first video book reviewer in the 137-year history of the Free Lance-Star Newspaper. He aspires to be the second-most-prolific book reviewer in the history of FXBG Advance and is also a founding member of Dads for Puppies.