Bottom Line: Amusing but not riotously funny, it does make you think about what is truly important in life.
“It’s 2008. In three days, family man and Silicon Valley speechwriter Dan Jordan will see his start-up stock vest. He’ll cash out with $1.1 million, turn in his frenetic Valley life in for a slower one on the beach with his wife and two children, and finally live the life he’s supposed to live. Or so he thinks. Before he can collect his cash and get outta Dodge, all hell breaks loose. Dan is kidnapped by a gang of tiny IT nerds who threaten to get him fired before the options can vest, stalked by a potentially murderous corporate security muscle man, and confronted with the possible disintegration of his marriage, all while his sociopath neighbor, Crazy Larry, threatens to ruin everything…”
Thoughts: Dan Jordan is having a really bad day. First, in an effort to show his dedication to his wife and his family, he undergoes the dreaded snip. Then, as he is hobbling towards his car for the trip home and a much-needed pack of frozen peas, he is kidnapped by three of the most unlikely criminals. To make matters worse, after his kidnappers let him go, he is assaulted by a muscle-bound man, and assaulted is actually sugar-coating the treatment he receives at the hands of this unknown bulkhead. With three days left until he can cash out his stock options and live happily ever after with his beloved wife and adored sons, all he wants to do is sit tight, ice his testicles, and get the money that will change his life for good. However, in Greg Barsley’s Cash Out, Dan’s options are just not that simple.
Stock options have lost their prestige because companies are not offering them as incentives anymore and because after the stock market turmoil of the past decade, people are leery about their long-term viability in a volatile economy. However, Cash Out occurs right before the beginning of the economic bust, when the stock market was flying high and holding stock in a start-up tech company was something about which most people dreamed. Like all incentives, especially ones that have the potential to be extremely lucrative, there is an underlying catch-22, namely having to sacrifice time and potentially some morals in the name of driving up stock prices. It is a situation Dan thought he had weathered fairly well but still cannot wait to leave, and he knows his vested stock will be the ticket to his life of dreams. Yet, as he is rushes to accede all demands from the various parties after him, he realizes just how much he has sacrificed, namely family, as he was biding his time until the end of the vesting period. Therein lies the charm of Dan’s crazy adventures. He truly is the quintessential family man, albeit one who has made some not-so-familial mistakes that land him in his current troubles.
Cash Out is a sociologist’s dream novel as it hypothesizes on the motivating impact of money, or the potential to obtain it, and the lengths to which people will go to protect their assets. Dan’s love for his wife and his family is unquestionable. While his actions as well as the events themselves may be a bit far-fetched, a reader knows indubitably that everything he does is to get that dream lifestyle for his family. Dan is a congenial enough character, well-meaning and earnest, and while his prior actions may have been questionable – hence the blackmail – his heart is definitely in the right place. Dan’s friends and neighbors provide most of the humor as their well-intentioned behaviors create some of the wackier scenes. The resulting lesson is tremendously appropriate, given today’s focus on materialism and one-upmanship, even if Mr. Bardsley tends to reiterate his point a bit more forcefully than necessary. Enjoyable and timely, Cash Out will make any reader appreciate the fact that even on the worst of days, it will still not be as awful as Dan’s.