The dictionary defines privileges as "...a right or advantage held as a prerogative of status or rank, and exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others." Jonathan Dee's initially exciting, finally disappointing novel describes what privileges can do to those wanting and ostensibly enjoying them.
Well-named, Adam and Cynthia Morey always want more of everything. In their book, it's money that will do the trick. Lots of money. Beginning with their wedding on a steamy day in Pittsburgh, they change--but do not grow as Adam's insider trading brings huge riches. He and Cynthia soon "have so much money that they had to hire people just to help them figure out how to give it away."
The snake in Adam's Eden is amoral self-delusion. Adam tells himself that he wants to give his family "a life in which literally anything is possible." Although this may be a definition of privileges, even with money, the family is isolated and lonely. Their money can't control everything.
Privileges will only go so far. The heat at their wedding is impossibly oppressive. When Cynthia's father is dying, she thinks how much she longed for him through the years. When they decide to go away for a weekend, they don't know anyone who could babysit for them. When their daughter April is small, she depicts a totally different family tree for school than the one she inhabits. When Cynthia would return to work after her children are in school, no one will hire her. When Jonas and April grow up (relatively), their lives are as purposeless as those of their parents. They are remarkably friendless, awash in money-driven privileges, yet alone on their Manhattan island.
Privileges pose problems. While the singular privilege of this novel is reading Dee's brilliant prose, seeing details with his all-seeing eye, his characters eventually defeat him. With all their money, they become boring and repetitive. Despite their bulging pockets, they are finally disappointing. For readers who are willing to follow them to their strange ending, all those privileges stand in the way of our caring what happens to them.