Tag Archives: books

A WINDOW OPENS by Elisabeth Egan

This is what I learned about Elisabeth Egan’s A Window Opens at a BEA Hot Fall Fiction panel: it’s about a middle-aged mother of three who loves books and has to juggle the competing demands of work and family when she goes back to work full-time at a company purporting to reinvent the bookstore experience.

Um, yes. I would like to read that.

Alice’s cushy life with a part-time job as a book reviewer for a magazine comes to an end when her husband doesn’t make partner at his New York law firm. They need money, so she finds herself a new full-time job working at Scroll, a startup division of a corporate mall developer who has set out to create a new bookstore in which ebooks and “carbon-based books” coexist among leather recliners and gluten-free snacks packaged in biodegradable containers. Alice is hired to help build relationships with publishers eager to get their upcoming books into Scroll’s stores. Off to Alice’s new job she goes, leaving her three kids in the care of her (excellent) babysitter and husband, who is starting to drink more heavily than he used to and whose hang-a-shingle law firm isn’t getting off the ground very quickly. Meanwhile, her father, who has already been through a bout of throat cancer, gets a very troubling medical diagnosis and her middle schooler is getting moodier and more withdrawn by the day.

You can see where this is going: stressed-out working mom gets embroiled in new job while things fall apart on the home front as she tries to do it all. While Alice was frustrating at times – she was clueless in a lot of ways, and seemed not to care that she was trampling over her husband – I could definitely relate to many of the challenges she faced. Scroll was a bit overblown, but I have worked at companies with a lot of millennials and I smiled in recognition at some of  the company’s policies and jargon-laden meetings and emails.

There’s an inconsistency in A Window Opens, as Egan pendulums between humor/parody and the more serious theme of losing a parent while struggling to be a good one yourself. I definitely liked the more serious parts of the book better than the lighter ones. There are a lot of I Don’t Know How She Does It books out there already, so the passages with more emotional heft felt fresher to me than the ones where Alice goes on her first business trip or has to run out of a meeting because her daughter is sick. Egan really nailed the poignant moments throughout the book, and those are the ones I will most remember.

Overall, I recommend A Window Opens despite its uneven tone. It’s entertaining, well-written and surprisingly moving.

A Window Opens comes out next week.

Book Haul from The Strand

I was in NY for business yesterday, and was in the neighborhood of The Strand bookstore. I decided to stop in for a quick visit, armed with my Goodreads To-Read list. Even though I know this probably isn’t true, I feel like I won’t be in NY for months and months after the baby is born, and that I need to stock up on books now. And because I have no books at home on the TBR list… (ha!). These are all contemporary fiction.

Here is a picture of the haul – all half-price or better. And here is what I bought:

Spoiled by Caitlin Macy – one of a few short story collections I bought, even though I rarely read short stories

The Divorce Party by Laura Dave

The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore – looks light but good

You Are Free by Danzy Senna – this has gotten mixed reviews but looked good to me; more short stories

The Submission by Amy Waldman – I’ve wanted to read this one for a while

The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen – I keep reading good things about this one. Another in the Parent’s Worst Nightmare camp.

Sleepwalking in Daylight by Elizabeth Flock – this one also looks pretty light

The Late Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow – I usually have a rule that I won’t buy a book with a picture of shoes on the cover, but I made an exception for this one

The Red Thread by Ann Hood – I also avoid books with knitting/yarn on the cover but I liked the subject of this one (Chinese adoption)

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw – this book came out 2 days ago and looks good

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom – MORE short stories (I know!)

If you’ve read any of these titles, let me know what you thought of them!

The New Classics

Two recent articles about books in Entertainment Weekly that I thought were worth passing on…

The first is from EW's latest issue about "the new classics". The magazine picked the books, movies, TV shows and music from the last 25 years that it deems worthy of the title "classic". Click here to see the 100 books that made the list.

Of the 100, I've read only 16. I was very happy to see four of my favorite books on the list: #29 Bel Canto (Ann Patchett), #82 Atonement (Ian McEwan), #14 Black Water (Joyce Carol Oates), and #60 Nickel and Dimed (Barbara Ehrenreich). There are also a few I was surprised to see on the list - Waiting to Exhale? Really?

Any books on the list you think shouldn't be there? How many have you read?

The other article I enjoyed was EW's list of recent memoirs. Basically, there is a memoir out there for every type of childhood, family, marriage, addiction, disease, racial identity, trauma religion, etc., and EW has captured quite a few of them. The article is entertaining, and will probably deter a swath of would-be memoirists who are disappointed to see that their life stories have already been written.

Have I mentioned lately that I love EW?