Study Guide

The Financial Lives of the Poets Summary & Study Guide

Jess Walter
This Study Guide consists of approximately 81 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Financial Lives of the Poets.
This section contains 769 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Financial Lives of the Poets Summary & Study Guide Description

The Financial Lives of the Poets Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter .

The following version of the novel was used to create this study guide: The Financial Lives of the Poets. Jess Walter. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Matt Prior is an unemployed financial journalist. His severance pay from the newspaper he was laid off from is about to run out and he is in danger of losing his house due to not being able to keep up with his mortgage payments. Matt's wife, Lisa, is aware they are in bad financial shape but Matt keeps from her just how dire things are. Matt and Lisa have two elementary school aged boys, Teddy and Franklin, and Matt's dad, who suffers from early onset dementia, also lives with them. Matt had attempted to start a website called where financial professionals write poetry and other forms of literature. This website was a failure and put Matt deeply in debt. One night while getting milk at a 7/11 Matt meets two stoners named Jamie and Skeet who ask him for a ride to a party. Matt agrees and gets high with them on the drive over. The high gives him a cathartic release from his problem and he cannot stop thinking about how good the weed was.

The next day Matt, unbeknownst to his wife, goes to his financial planner to cash out his retirement in order to make a balloon payment on his mortgage. After returning home, Matt becomes depressed by his wife's sexual flirtations online with her ex-boyfriend and his father's worsening mental state. Longing for the good feeling from the high the night before Matt precipitously decides to go back to 7/11 to find Jamie and Skeet. He cannot find them so he goes to their apartment complex (where the party was) and finds another young man. He asks to buy some weed and decides to spend all the money from his retirement on it.

Matt's plan is to deal drugs to people his age who are in similar financial straights and need a release from their problem. Jamie sets up a meetings with a self-described "drug lawyer," Dave, who provides a service of introducing prospective dealers with his weed supplier. Matt agrees to Dave's terms and awaits a call to meet and see the supplier. In the meantime Matt hatches a plot to expose his wife's potential infidelities by going to her ex-boyfriend's, Chuck, lumber store. He ends up buying $1,100 worth of lumber for a tree house to be delivered by Chuck to the house, thereby embarrassing and exposing his wife and Chuck. Matt gets the call from Dave and they, along with Jamie, drive an hour to a rural town to meet the drug supplier, Monte.

Monte and Dave surprise Matt by offering him the opportunity to buy the business from them. He does not seriously consider the offer but he does fantasize about how much money he would be able to make. While telling a friend about the offer as well as his plan to sell weed to make enough money to get him back on his feet he is approached by two cops, Randy and Greg, who know that he has marijuana in his bag and threatened charges unless he becomes a criminal informant. Matt accepts and his given a watch which doubles as a record. Then Matt experiences a complete nervous breakdown.

In his highly emotional state Matt desperately hatches a plan to entrap enemies from his past by selling them drugs, recording it, and turning it over to the police. He attempts to do this to Chuck, his former editor who laid him off, and the real estate agent who sold him their house. After all of these attempts fail Matt realizes he cannot do this any more. He decides to let Dave, Jamie, and Monte know he is working with the police and give them a head start before turning himself in. Dave catches wind that Matt is working with the cops. After a heated confrontation, Dave and Monte get away but end up turning themselves into the police. Jamie is revealed to also have been a criminal informant the entire time.

Matt is arrested and sentenced to probation. He and Lisa declare bankruptcy, lose their home, and separate. As time passes Lisa comes clean about Chuck and her and Matt slowly work to rebuild their marriage. Matt works for a small online newspaper and lives in a 2-bedroom apartment with the boys. The story ends with Matt and Lisa still distant but getting closer and Matt realizing his fixation on money and success are what led him to his current state.

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