Intrigue swirls around HR executive Rosa Guerrero in this engrossing workplace drama by Medoff (I Couldn’t Love You More, 2012, etc.).
Ellery Consumer Research Group is one of “a glut of boutique research firms…fighting for market share” in the wake of the economic meltdown. The HR department has already shrunk from 22 to 16 to 13 as the story begins in November 2009, and the CEO is pressuring Rosa to cut more. She's just had to fire her trusted right-hand man for embezzling, leaving her at age 64 without an obvious choice to groom for succession. Longtime training and recruiting director Rob Hirsch is blatantly burned-out, while hotshot Wharton MBA Kenny Verville is too busy looking for a better job at a bigger company to pay much attention to his current work. Rounding out the cast of principals are Communications/Policy VP Lucy Bender, gunning for a promotion, and Employee Benefits manager Leo Smalls, Rosa’s principal confidant. These two cover for their boss after she has a minor stroke and, once back at work, her memory and behavior continue to deteriorate. Although Medoff frankly chronicles plenty of scheming and self-serving, Rosa’s devotion to her staff is repaid with loyalty and affection that are all the more poignant coming from believably flawed characters. People get second chances here: Kenny buckles down at Ellery after blowing an outside prospect, and Rob finds that getting laid off is the kick in the pants he needs to revitalize himself. At the center stands Rosa, a tough corporate infighter who is also a mother hen; she’s the most vivid figure, but everyone gets nicely textured treatment in an engrossing narrative that manages to encompass Lucy’s therapy issues, Rob’s devotion to his family, Leo’s search for Mr. Right, and Kenny’s troubled marriage while maintaining the main focus on their lives at work. An economical epilogue makes clever use of corporate organization charts to quickly trace the characters’ odysseys after the story’s bittersweet conclusion in August 2010.
A sharp-eyed novel of corporate manners.