A middle-aged aspiring poet named Ellen Portinari buys a lottery ticket on a whim and wins a hundred-million-dollar jackpot, yet postpones cashing in as she frets about what the windfall will mean for her life going forward. Meanwhile, a Brooklyn street artist named Blair Talpa is contending with her own challenges: a missing brother, an urge to make art and a lack of money.
Over a month that simmers with a strange tension—a plot device like nothing I’ve seen before—a few New Yorkers struggle for greater connection and permanence, whisked in and out of turning points as if on the R train, Cooley’s nervy choice for where to set her climax ... wit percolates throughout the dialog, despite its many rueful touches; Cooley works without quotation marks, so that pages unfold in brief paragraphs that suggest a musical score ... conversations come alive with counterpoint ... fresh proof of how small wins may be easier to live with than the jackpot.
The book’s expository dialogue, combined with Ellen’s tortuous indecision over whether or not she should claim her winnings, results in some frustrating moments. Nevertheless, Ellen’s good heart, and the bond that she develops with Roy and his son, makes hers a warm and hopeful tale, if one that concludes with a reminder that life can be changed by ironic developments ... an unusual novel about a woman whose lottery win brings her to a deeper understanding of herself and what is important to her.