I haven’t read a Jennifer E Smith in a few years, not since 2014, and I wasn’t wildly impressed with that. But Windfall, which I picked up at YALC after a great night out at a pub quiz with the author, was really so excellent, I will definitely look out for the rest of Jennifer E Smith’s back list.
Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.
At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.
As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.
There was so much that was great about this book. Two main characters who had a wonderful friendship and years of history behind them. The incredible windfall that is a hundreds of million dollar win on the lottery. The pain and pleasure of a first love, and that friends-to-lovers journey that can be so hard to navigate.
There wasn’t really anything I didn’t like about this book. Teddy was so believable as the down on his luck guy who has an incredible lottery win, and it goes straight to his head. Alice, struggling to come to terms with her past and who she is now as an adult. Leo, the cousin who’s more like a sibling to Alice. And Alice’s wonderful, wonderful aunt and uncle, how they took her in, loved her, raised her, and Alice’s acceptance of her place in the family.
Against the backdrop of lavish overspending from Teddy, there was so much going on in this book, but it never felt crowded or unbelievable (other than the lottery win, but come on, someone has to win sometimes!). Alice’s relationship with her aunt and uncle and cousin, her knowledge of herself, and her feelings for Teddy were all so well-drawn that I really struggled to put this book down (except when I was so drunk the words were wobbling on the page).
Having read The Statistical Improbability, I thought it was a mid-range contemporary romance, but Windfall is a big step up from that, with great characters, and a great story!