Book Review: It Is Only Money, And It Grows On Trees!
I was pleased to have been sent a copy of It Is Only Money, And It Grows On Trees by Cara MacMillan.
I’d actually been aware of this book for some time, having come across reviews on other blogs, but I’d only glanced at them. From that cursory knowledge, I picked up on the book’s major point of differentiation – MacMillan’s use of a fictitious discourse set in a classroom, which overtly establishes her didactic method.
This tactic interestingly allows MacMillan to assume engagement with her actual student, the reader, through the proxy of the fictional characters of the students.
The question remains, then: do the lessons actually engage as they are presumed to?
What is money?
We are given, on page 2, a succinct definition for money – “the resource that we use for exchange.”
In a similar vein, MacMillan peppers her text with genuinely useful and insightful theories and instruction. There is a very interesting comparison of cross-generational perspectives on earning money, which, to me, bears investigation as much as any geographical, religious or cultural separation.
The simple delivery will undoubtedly assist many who find money and personal finance to be daunting, and could serve as a helpful introduction to a wide range of beneficial concepts.
Money and religion
However, I was thrown by the first hurdle – the examination of the Christian concept of money. Personally, I am definitely not in total agreement with the book’s depiction of the Christian concept of money, and I say this as a practicing Christian.
However, I reserve my thoughts on theology, apart from one vital observation which MacMillan missed: “talents” referred to in the Biblical parable of the talents (Matt. 25: 14-30) are not the same as skill-type talents – like being good at something. It is a measure of currency in this parable and other Bible accounts. This became the basis for the word being used for “skill”, but it is erroneous to conflate these meanings as MacMillan does.
Jesus was actually talking about money here, not being able to sew on a button!
After that, I started to question other religious and cultural observations in the book – I considered messaging my Ghanaian friends to fact-check some statements, but of course I just let it go. My trust had been shaken and from there on, I considered each statement for its relevance to the text’s overriding message, and not necessarily as a true reflection of religious or cultural fact.
As far as language and prose are concerned, MacMillan is not a novelist. Sentence structure often goes awry and dialogue frequently lacks depth. I occasionally lost focus because of jarring syntax and errors. Likewise, the age of her “students” is confusing – they are referred to as kids, but are also composed of international students, suggesting university level, and yet one has several children and another owns property.
The book’s characters serve as proponents for set pieces related to personal finance and cultural generalisation, and little else. However, I can accept that in this brief framework – the main body of the text runs to 95 pages – there isn’t any room for much more. It simply needs to be much longer and have more depth for me.
It may seem as though I have taken an overly critical view, but I should temper it with this: there is a lot of good in this little book.
Reading the introduction to the workbook in the appendix, it is apparent that its drive is a good-natured desire to re-educate on the nature of resources, and to show that money is only one of the many resources for exchange that we have at our disposal. This drive, the book’s non-intimidating structure and the workbook, will make it an ideal fit for many in need of financial education.