Friday, September 25, 2015

A Window Opens, by Elisabeth Egan

As A Window Opens opens, Alice Pearse has a good life. Her husband is an associate at a Manhattan law firm, her three kids are delightful, she has an interesting part-time job at a women's magazine, a wonderful babysitter takes care of her kids when she is working, and her father has survived cancer (albeit with his larynx removed). Her best friend owns an independent bookstore and the two help women pick books to read (literary references are numerous throughout the novel).

Then, everything falls apart. Her husband doesn't make partner, throws his laptop across a conference room when he finds out, and hello solo practice and a lot of beer-guzzling. Alice must get a full-time job--and she finds one at Scroll, a high-tech company that plans to reinvent reading just as Starbucks reinvented coffee. To top things off, her father's cancer returns shortly after she starts the high-stress new job.

Yep, A Window Opens is another examination of women's problem of work-home balance. The descriptions of working at Scroll are satiric and effective--given that Egan once worked at Amazon, one can only assume that they are also accurate. Alice herself is a nice balance of sympathetic and obnoxious (e.g., when she checks her work messages while sitting at the hospital with her desperately ill father). Egan doesn't offer any new insights about work and family and much about the story is predictable, but A Window Opens is an amusing and occasionally touching beach read.

Two gripes: 1. How many times do we have to hear/read the joke about the sixty-something parent who thinks LOL means lots of love? Please--let it go already. 2. Epilogues should not go on and on, not only tying up every loose end by putting bows on them.

Favorite passage:
I was down one parent, but I still had a lot to learn from the one I had left.

When I arrived for my first day of work, visible rays of light crisscrossed through the store, turning the shelves into a rainbow of spines: thick, thin, shiny, matte, striped, printed with small pictures and designs, lettered in gold.

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