Book review: Edmund L. Andrews' 'Busted'

Last month, WalletPop's Tom Barlow interviewed Edmund L. Andrews, the author of Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown. Andrews was a veteran New York Times reporter following the Federal Reserve, who got in way over his head on his own mortgage and was dragged down by a combination of alimony obligations, a new wife who wasn't earning her keep and slimy subprime lenders.

I finally got around to reading it and wasn't particularly impressed. Andrews tells the story of his infatuation with an old high school friend after his divorce in the most banal terms imaginable: "brainy, regal, sexy, fiery and eclectic" is one example. But there's also: "She had touched my soul in ways I couldn't explain and couldn't really understand."

The book then switches back and forth between the story of the mortgage mess and how it happened -- with literally no original or particularly intelligent insight -- and Mr. Andrews' own financial problems, brought about by a decision to purchase a home when he had little in savings, huge divorce-related obligations, and a new wife who hadn't worked in decades.

But the best reason to skip this book was revealed by The Atlantic: ". . . It turns out the story has been tidied up a little. Patty Barreiro, Andrews' wife, has declared bankruptcy twice. The second time was while they were married, a detail that didn't make it into either the book or the excerpt that ran in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Andrews' desire to shield his wife is understandable -- hell, laudable. No decent person wants to parade their spouse's financial troubles in front of the world. But this is material information that changes the tenor of his story. Serial bankruptcy is not a creation of the current credit crisis, and it doesn't just happen to anyone, particularly anyone with a six figure salary."

The bottom line is this: If Mr. Andrews wanted to protect his wife's privacy, he shouldn't have written the darn book anyway. But to write a book about your financial ruin and leave out the fact that you married a serial deadbeat debtor is downright dishonest, and Mr. Andrews deserves no praise for this well-timed, opportunistic pile of garbage designed to function as his own personal bailout.
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