About a month ago, I finished reading The Chocolate Money by Ashley Prentice Norton. I was a bit disturbed at some parts of this book because the graphic nature it could have but I was also completely consumed by the characters. I needed to understand them and that's what kept me reading. I have it a rating of three out of five stars on Goodreads. Find out why below.
What Goodreads Says Set in 1980s Chicago and on the East Coast, this electric debut chronicles the relationship between an impossibly rich chocolate heiress, Babs Ballentyne, and her sensitive and bookish young daughter, Bettina. Babs plays by no one’s rules: naked Christmas cards, lavish theme parties with lewd installations at her Lake Shore Drive penthouse, nocturnal visits from her married lover, who “admires her centerfold” while his wife sleeps at their nearby home.
Bettina wants nothing more than to win her mother’s affection and approval, both of which prove elusive. When she escapes to an elite New Hampshire prep school, Bettina finds that her unorthodox upbringing makes it difficult to fit in with her peers, one of whom happens to be the son of Babs’s lover. As she struggles to forge an identity apart from her mother, Bettina walks a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction.
As funny as it is scandalous, The Chocolate Money is Mommie Dearest,Prep, and 50 Shades of Gray all rolled into one compulsively readable book.
What I Say
This was a really intriguing novel. Half the time I wanted to throw it across the room out of pure disgust but I just couldn't tear myself away. It's a book about a woman named Bettina remembering her childhood and the relationship she had with her mother. You think that it's about her life growing up but it's really about how her mother influenced her life. Everything up to her mother's death, potentially even afterwards, was affected by what she thought her mother would think or what her mother would do. Bettina needed so badly to be accepted by her mother that she became almost obsessed with her own behavior.
I think all of us can relate to Bettina's need of acceptance to a certain point. Everyone wants to be loved by their parents. Some people just need it a little more. The Chocolate Money explored the life of the rich and what it was really like to be a part of that lifestyle. It started early with Bettina's memories of her mother's lavish parties and ended with her inheriting millions of dollars but lonely at the same time.
I thought this was a very dramatic depiction of youth and adolescence. The wants, needs and desires of a child from the age of five to twenty-five. It's about finding yourself while trying to identify with someone else. I wasn't completely thrilled with this book but I couldn't put it down either. I was so immersed in Bettina's character and how obsessed she was with her mother. I needed to understand not only her behavior, but her mother's as well. I wish I knew what Bettina was like now, twenty-something years later. I want to know what Bettina is at forty because she still had a lot of growing up to do by the time we finished what was so far written of her story.