Book Review – Fierce People by Dick Wittenborn

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another book review. So most of you might not have heard of this book. I would have been one of you but I actually came across this book because it was made into a movie starring Anton Yelchin. And I made a post about his passing here. Still can’t believe he’s gone. Anyways, I don’t want to bum you guys out, I watched the movie and thought it was pretty interesting so I wanted to read the book. And here we are.

Wittenborn, Dick. Fierce People. Bloomsbury USA. 2003. 352 p. 158234292X.

Genre: Fiction/Drama


Fierce People tells the story of Finn Earl and his mother Liz who is a masseuse with a habit for cocaine. As Finn watches his mother struggle with her addiction, he turns his attention to the Yanomami Indians of the Amazon who he thinks are fascinating as his dad whom he’s never met who studied them. They live in the lower east side of New York City until Liz’s habit reaches its breaking point, she seeks sanctuary with one of her clients, aging billionaire Ogden C. Osborne. Less than twenty-four hours later, she and Finn are heading to the exclusive rural community of Vlyvalle, New Jersey. Osborne lives in this fancy resort with a bunch of rich people whom he introduces Liz and Finn to but social climbing is a blood sport. Soon, Finn is tangled in a web of secrets and betrayals so bizarre and so dangerous that getting out starts to look even harder than getting in.

Wittenborn’s writing is of a high standard as he weaves in many interesting observations and insights gleaned from his own experience growing up as poor (the son of a psychologist) in a very wealthy community. I loved the way Finn compared the “tribe” of the wealthy to the Yanomami Indians and how they form a tribe, it really solidified them more as a community. Wittenborn makes a clear message about greed, especially towards those who were born into a certain class, are born wealthy, etc. Even though the book is three-hundred+ pages, it’s a pretty quick read as the plot progresses quickly. Overall, Wittenborn writes in a way that is humorous, wild, unpredictable, and insightful. But there is a trigger warning that I have to give out, there is a rape scene in this novel, I’m going to tell you who gets raped obviously but it’s pretty brutal. Even in the movie, it was hard to watch so just watch out for that.

Teaching Ideas:

This novel is a bit of a stretch because it deals with some wild stuff that I don’t want to spoil so I’m honestly not even sure it’d be suitable for classroom settings. That said, I’m not sure it would be available in a school library but a public library? Possibly. But if I were to introduce this into a classroom setting, once again, the Osborne family is extensive so I might have the students do a family tree and have them analyze the effects of power and wealth and what that means to each character. And how does Finn fit into all of this? I’d also like to see an essay analyzing Finn’s comparison of the Yanomami Indians to the wealthy community they are a part of.

Rating: 8.5/10

I hope you all enjoyed this book review. The next book will be…. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman!



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