A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
2015 Simon & Schuster
Finished on September 23, 2015
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
For fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It and Where’d You Go, Bernadette?.
In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine, Elisabeth Egan, brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age.
Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.
Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?
A Window Opens is another one of those books with eye-catching cover art that I simply could not resist. Egan’s debut novel is a fairly quick read and one which book lovers (and those working in the book biz) will enjoy. I laughed out loud and I may have shed a tear or two. As Marysue Rucci (Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, Simon & Schuster, Inc.) says, “…reading A Window Opens is akin to reading the work of Anna Quindlen—like spending precious time with your brilliant, brutally honest, funniest, and most observant best friend. You never want the evening to end.”
As with all bookish-type of books, I loved the bookseller chatter about current recommendations:
Susanna: How are you guys holding up? Thinking of you constantly.
Me: The cousins are skim-board phenoms, taking the island by storm. Adults are more subdued; nice to all be together. You?
Susanna: The usual. College kids quitting for a better offer, so basically on my feet all day, ringing up Fifty Shades of Grey. What is it with that book?
Me: Ya got me. I’m halfway through The Light Between Oceans and LOVING IT.
Susanna: That one’s selling like hotcakes, too, thankfully.
And the joy of working in a bookstore:
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. The effect was dazzling. I already knew the bustle of the Blue Owl on a weekend afternoon, or after closing with customers in work clothes lingering over platters of Triscuits and cubed cheese. But, I realized, this was my first time in the store before it opened and, instantly, I knew it was the best time to be there—the bookseller’s equivalent of watching your kids sleep. I could feel the peace in my bones.
In addition to the book chatter, the novel also deals with the loss of a family member, which I found to be spot-on. I found myself nodding my head in agreement on more than one occasion.
One by one, the guests left my mom’s house. They promised to check in soon and made us promise to let them know if there was anything they could do.
News flash: nobody is going to give you an assignment. Just do something.
Amy, the daughter of one of my mom’s tennis friends, worked quietly in the kitchen, sleeves rolled up, brewing pot after pot of strong coffee and stowing Mass cards and sympathy cards in a straw basket so my mom could read them later. Even though our mothers had been friends for decades, we weren’t friends; she’d been a few years ahead of me in school. Up until this point, most of our contact had been through families she’d babysat for, whom she passed along to me when she lost interest watching 227 alone on Saturday nights. I knew Amy was a teacher now, and the mother of toddlers, which meant that she’d lined up both a sub and a babysitter of her own so she could take coats and arrange crudité platters for our family. Her kindness was mind-boggling.
I wasn’t planning to keep my ARC of A Window Opens, but after thumbing through it while composing this review, I realized that it was really an enjoyable read and that I’d like to at least attempt to find time to read it again someday. I enjoyed the smooth conversational style of Egan’s writing and anxiously await her next novel. Fans of Jojo Moyes, Liane Moriarty, and of course, Anna Quindlen, are sure to enjoy this smart and humorous novel.
From the New York Times Book Review:
Egan has an eye for the absurdities of the corporate workplace and an ear for its preposterous jargon: “drilling down,” “onboarding,” “action item,” “noodle that over.” And she’s very funny on the cultural chasm separating Alice, who is in her late 30s from her savvy younger colleagues in their “statement glasses.” As Alice puts it, “Sometimes I felt like one of the Danish au pairs I made plans with on the front lawn of the school – understanding but not understanding.” These workaday passages are further enhanced by the presence of two delightfully loathsome villains.
About the Author:
Elisabeth Egan is the books editor at Glamour. Her essays and book reviews have appeared in Self, Glamour, O, People, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Huffington Post, The New York Times Book Review, LA Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times; and Newark Star-Ledger. She lives in New Jersey with her family.