What happens when a book lover gets caught up in the tech world?
Alice Pearse is happy with her life as the part-time books editor at You, a glossy women’s magazine, which allows her to commute into Manhattan three days a week wearing semifashionable clothes and still have time to hang out with her kids, go to spin class, and grab coffee with friends. But when her husband, Nicholas, finds out he hasn’t made partner at his law firm—and cements his decision to leave by throwing a laptop across the conference room—she impetuously tells him she’ll get a full-time job. Luckily, she soon hears from Genevieve Andrews, a woman she follows on Twitter, who offers her a position at Scroll, a sort-of Amazon/Starbucks mashup that wants to revolutionize the world of bookselling. Egan’s voice is knowing and funny, and she has a great eye for the minutiae of the modern working mother’s life. Alice picks Legos off the floor, orders her kids’ class pictures, and calls in a renewal of her dog’s Prozac prescription: “His birthday? Honestly, I have no idea….He’s not my son! He’s my dog!” The scenes at the tech company aren’t as sharply satirical as Dave Eggers’ The Circle, but it’s fun to see Alice try to get a handle on the lingo—learning to schedule a 1-to-1 instead of a meeting, for instance—and keep up with the company’s shifting priorities. The book is brimming with relationships and subplots: Alice’s father is dying of cancer but finds time to nag her about her social media profile (“Why no cover photo on your [Facebook] timeline?”); her best friend, an independent bookstore owner, is struggling with her business; Nicholas is drinking too much while trying to get his solo practice off the ground. Egan, herself the books editor at Glamour, packs an incredible amount of humor, observation, and insight into her buoyant debut novel, a sort-of The Way We Live Now for 21st-century moms who grew up loving the bookish heroines of Anne of Green Gables and Betsy-Tacy.
Women may not be able to have it all, but this novel can.