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Millions    by Frank Cottrell Boyce order for
by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce has written an acutely clever debut novel worth Millions! Brothers Anthony and Damian Cunningham are new students at the Great Ditton Primary School. Dad Cunningham encourages them to be 'excellent' at school.

Their story is narrated by Damian, who has the ability to remember all the saints, their dates in history, and roles as 'patron/protector'. 'Saints are like television. They're everywhere. But you need an aerial', says Damian, and of course, that was once told to him by St. Francis of Assisi. Damian designs a 'hermitage' out of cardboard boxes in the field of his home property. One night while preparing for sleep in his hermitage (and striving for excellence), Damian offers a special prayer, 'In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. My Mum is Dead. Amen.' Shortly afterwards a train travels noisily nearby, while a bag falls 'out of the sky' at Damian's side. Damian rushes home to show Anthony what God has dropped from heaven. To Anthony he says, 'You know when you tell people Mum is dead and they give you stuff?' He opens the bag revealing its contents - millions of bank notes! Coincidentally, the currency is changing to 'Euro' on December 1st, seventeen days hence. They agree not to tell Dad about the bag from heaven as the government will then take at least 40% of the loot to cover taxes.

What happens thereafter is woven by the genius of Boyce. The brothers find it is not easy to spend 229,000 pounds before the notes become worthless. From paying to use schoolmates' bicycles, taking a taxi home from school, buying Rockport sneakers, adding channels for TV viewing, acquiring statues of all the saints, and investing in real estate, Anthony and Damian's ideas snowball into a merry-go-round spinning faster and faster. Damian narrates his thoughts, 'To be nautical about this, we were getting into murky waters. The first chance I got, I retreated to my hermitage to contemplate my situation.' Contemplation inspires Damian to buy dozens of birds at a pet shop and set them free, just like St. Anthony of Assisi and his birds. 'So, I was actually doing a saintish thing', he decides. And, further thinking brings him to a plan for 'sainthood' - give money to the poor and charitable agencies. Damian begins to add up the 'good deeds' they can do to climb the rungs of the ladder to heaven.

But, the more the brothers try, the more frustrating, and complex the situation becomes. At one stressful moment Dad speaks to Anthony, 'Not only did you say, you also said that you said and now you're saying that you said that you said, so that's enough saying, all right?' After they discover that the bag did not drop from heaven, but was disposed of by robbers, Damian still thinks that 'God works in mysterious ways.' It's a funny, heartwarming story of two brothers blessed with vivid imaginations, a loving Dad, and a bag full of banknotes. There are robbers on their trail, a woman named Dorothy, a man with one glass eye, and events that add a smidgen of suspense. I recommend Millions to be shared with family and friends, of all ages. I laughed heartily with tears in my eyes, and am still chuckling while writing this review.

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