Pretty In Ink, by Lindsay Palmer, tells the story of the staff at Hers, a women’s magazine in Manhattan. When the editor-in-chief is replaced, and the inevitable magazine shakeup follows, each staff member reassesses exactly what she does and what her job means. And, in some cases, just what she’s willing to do to keep her job.
The story is told in short segments from different women’s viewpoints, and although they each have a different perspective and different priorities, the overall narrative is easy to follow. A large number of first-person narrators can be a confusing literary device, but it works well here because the personalities and challenges are so varied. It also makes the novel feel like the story of the magazine, and not a story about a particular person.
Each woman is struggling to balance work and personal life, but Palmer makes sure that none of them become cliches. One staffer, a mom to triplets, drifts towards the predictable harried-working-mother trope at times, but the complexities of her marriage keep her from crossing the line. Another staff member is surprised to discover she prefers working with fashion models and shopping still lives at Hers over the vague personal art project she’s been postponing. Each personal arc (well, except for one underwhelming one) was satisfying and believable.
After working in a certain Manhattan office where frequent changes in upper management kept others shuffling and reassessing, I thought this story was terribly true to life. Pretty In Ink includes a new boss sending the project in a completely new creative direction, effective immediately, a sycophantic assistant, and an employee who shrugs and kinda rolls with it. There’s the wide-eyed newbie so thrilled with her new Manhattan career, and the slacker who puts in just enough effort not to get fired. There’s the office backstabber, and she’s not who I thought. (Which is usually how it works, isn’t it?)
And all of this unfolds just below the surface, in powerplays for featured content, desk space and visible assignments, because all but the most hostile staffers know they’ll be running into each other at trade shows for years to come. So accurate.
You probably don’t have to love New York and love magazine journalism to love Pretty In Ink, but it helps.
I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley to review, but that’s never stopped me from snarking about a bad book or writing a critical review.