I started reading Elisabeth Egan’s A Window Opens shortly before I left for Yangzhou, but for some reason, moving to China and immediately losing my suitcase put me slightly behind on my reading and blogging. I mean, I could have just summed up my review like this:
Do you like books? Do you have a job? Do you have a family? Do you ever think about reading, your career, or your family? Good, then this book is for you.
As I read, I found myself highlighting something every couple of pages, and I really wished I was reading a proper book and not an eARC so I could share some of the best lines. It’s rare to find a novel that’s both a readable what’ll-happen-next story and a larger mediation on life, relationships and books.
So first I highlighted all these parts about thinking your job is wonderful, and then discovering fairly abruptly that there’s no future in it, and trying to decide what’ll come next. And then I highlighted the bit about being EWK – CLE (or RDU – EWK) when your life used to be JFK – LAX. And about hipster management jargon. And some of the snark about the New Jersey-Manhattan commute. And then I highlighted some parts about reading and about what Tumblr fiction fandoms call the book feels. And a bit about giving up one’s blue hair to get a new job.
The descriptive blurb says rather bland chicklit things about a wifeandmother who returns to the workforce after her husband loses his job, which is accurate (and obviously appealing enough to get me to read the book) but also not what it’s about. . After Alice’s husband Nick realizes that he has no future with his law firm, and abruptly quits, Alice leaves her part-time position as a book reviewer and starts what seems like a perfect job for a reader and books editor at Scrolls, a boutique reading experience. But it’s not a novel about ziplocs of goldfish crackers accidentally spilled at high-profile presentations, and the climax isn’t a realization that her children are The Only Thing That Really Matter. Alice also has a struggling husband, aging parents, children with separate personalities, actual friendships, including a best friend who runs the local independent bookstore, a boss who blows hot and cold in a disturbingly realistic way, and that NJTransit commute. There was an unpleasant moment where the narrative veered dangerously close to Books Good, Games Dumb territory, but by that point I was hooked so I kept reading, and told myself that the problem was Scrolls veering away from the original plan and Alice’ job description drastically changing, and not that interactive entertainment is inherently bad.
As I was reading, I realized slowly that the New Jersey suburb of Filament is actually my hometown, Montclair. First I thought the bit about the NJTransit conductor’s being a dick about the extra charge for onboard tickets seemed pretty true to life, but NJTransit runs lots of places. (Did I ever mention my theory that most DeCamp employees are double agents working to make NJT look better by comparison?) Then I thought it was hilarious when Nick and his bro friends got ridiculously drunk at the Shannon Rose, because my cousins used to live within shouting distance of the Shannon Rose, and apparently a lot of ridiculously drunk bros shout a lot. And it was funny that that Filament has a Williams-Sonoma and a Bloomfield Avenue too, and by the end of the book, I was mapping each description to a Montclair place. North Edison is probably Edgemont, so if it’s a 10 minute walk to the train, that must be the Watchung Plaza stop…
Anyway, if you like books, or having a job, or relationships with other people, you should go read this.
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan will be out on August 25, 2015. I received a copy of this book from the publisher to review. (But you already know that from reading the post, right?) All opinions on my blog are my own, as always.
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