Post-Madoff, post-TARP bailout, post-those scandalous bonuses, you, like many others, may have come to the conclusion that stratospheric success on WallStreet isn't exactly the product of genius, acumen, work ethic or determination as much as the product of narcissism and sociopathy. And according to this novel, you'd be right.
So when a handsome, charming sociopath meets a beautiful, proud narcissist in college, first comes love, then comes marriage... Wallstreet is destiny.
Adam has no regrets, he could not care less about yesterday and he has nothing resembling emotional bonds outside of his own nuclear family and nothing but his wife really matters as she satisfies any need for the justification of his ruthless ambition. Cynthia on the other hand, cares little for those beyond her own nuclear family unless they gratify her self-image in some way. Both are not just unsentimental. They are asentimental. She briefly has small a crisis of self-faith about her performance as a top notch mom over a minor incident which sets off a rousing round of justification for Adam's insider trading. Insider trading and illegal offshoring of ill-gotten funds is therefore noble because it's for the family cause, but infidelity would be an unspeakable transgression in this relationship.
I'm not sure what purpose the kids serve to further this vignette unless it's because everyone has them, maybe even especially narcissists and sociopaths. And the kids do serve up a couple of different perspectives on what a casual rather causal relationship with such wealth breeds and Dee invests a lot of time in them plot-wise. April, the extrovert, compensates for her sense of cultural rootlessness resulting from her parents' disregard for extra-family attachment and asentimentality ultimately by cultivating both the careless arrogance of her mother and the same wreckless lack of empathy for those outside the family as her father. Jonah, the introvert, compensates for a childhood and adolescence void of personal struggle and subsequent meaningful achievement by setting himself on a quest for a unicorn called authenticity.
Best passage from the book for me was, "The whole idea of forgiveness presumed you were locked in the past and trying to let yourself out. She wasn't going to drag him back in that direction, to make him explain why he had lived as he had lived. That wasn't who they were. Each moment bore only the next one and if you were going to be successful in this life, that was the plane on which you had to live. If you started going on your knees to the past, demanding something from it, you were dead. She asked nothing from it."
The rich aren't like you and I. Because, above all else, they have never believed they are like everyone else even on the most fundamental human level, even before they became wealthy. And that's what Dee's The Privileges is at its core.