Thursday, September 24, 2015

Review: A Window Opens

Summary: Fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It and Where’d You Go, Bernadette will cheer at this “fresh, funny take on the age-old struggle to have it all” (People) about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny—only to learn every opportunity comes at a price.

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? -- Simon & Schuster

It's so nice that I seem to be reading a lot of what I collected at this year's BEA. One of the books that I didn't want to leave without was A WINDOW OPENS by Elisabeth Egan. I was immediately drawn to this novel when I saw the author autographing copies, and the description sounded like something I'd absolutely love. As the reviews and press started rolling in, I had a feeling that this book was for me!

A WINDOW OPENS tells the story of Alice Pearse, a wife, a mom of three, and part-time books editor at a women's magazine. She loves that she can balance both the working mom and the stay-at-home mom lifestyles; and she really appears to have it all... at least to this reader who totally envied her lifestyle!

I should have known things were too good to be true for Alice. When her husband gets overlooked for partner in his law firm and decides to quit and start his own firm, Alice decides that she needs to work full-time. Fortunately (maybe?) for Alice, an amazing career opportunity arises. She is offered a job working with books at Scroll, a start-up company that plans to change the future of reading!

Alice is thrilled to be "doing it all" despite misgivings from her best friend, who just happens to own the local bookstore. However, she quickly realizes that the job at Scroll is much more demanding than she expected. In addition, her husband is struggling to get his new firm off the ground... which just adds to Alice's pressure at work and home. She sees her kids less and less, depends more and more on her babysitter, and finds that she's not at all happy. And then Scroll changes strategic direction and Alice is forced to evaluate what she really wants out of her life!

I absolutely adored A WINDOW OPENS. I liked Alice and I really was able to relate to her even though our lives aren't all that similar. It didn't hurt that she had a love of books, and I admit I relished with all the "book talk." I also appreciated how entertaining the novel was... while also being heartwarming. All in all, I think it might be one of my favorites of the year!

I found A WINDOW OPENS to be highly readable -- I honestly couldn't put it down. And then, I was sad when it ended. I think the author's ability to create a character like Alice is what made me enjoy it so much. Alice was very real to me. She was a wife, mother, friend, and daughter; and she took these roles very seriously. However, Alice also wanted to have a career. She honestly thought she could have it all, and in many ways she did... until she didn't. (And in this way, A WINDOW OPENS reminded me a bit of author Allison Pearson's I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT -- note the similar name.) I guarantee that Alice will resonate with many women in today's society.

I really appreciated the humor in the story. While A WINDOW OPENS touches upon some very serious issues, it also kept me smiling. The novel was written in Alice's voice and I loved her insight into not only her life but others too. In addition, there were many references to pop culture and current social trends that were laugh out funny. The author's descriptions of PTO moms, bratty kids, and more were spot on.

Another thing I enjoyed about A WINDOW OPENS was how it focused on books and literature. As a book blogger and lover of books, this really made the novel extra-special to me. Ms. Egan is the books editor at Glamour, and I'd love to meet her! There were many references to books (including the "tribute" to I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT), and the initial concept of Scroll even made me excited. (Once again I could relate to Alice's passion for her role in the company!) I also loved that the author had Alice's best friend be the owner of the local bookstore. Needless to say, there were a few important dilemmas presented about the roles of major companies vs. independent stores.

But what I loved the most about A WINDOW OPENS were the messages from the story... or at least the ones that I took away with me after I finished the novel. Alice tried to have it all and found the it's almost impossible. Like many women, she was a mom to three busy kids, a daughter to aging parents, a wife to a troubled husband, and a full-time corporate worker. She had to deal with constantly being exhausted as well as the guilt of being a working woman, and I don't think she ever felt like she was able to do her best. My heart broke for her and my initial envy of her life quickly became a reality check (and eye opener) for my own situation. I felt Alice's pain and truly appreciated that she was able to look at her life and discover what was most important to her.

A WINDOW OPENS would make a wonderful book club pick especially if your group if made up of moms. The book really explores the issues of both stay-at-home and working moms which can be a touchy subject. (I think some women are their own worst enemy!) There is a reading group guide available with fifteen topics for discussion as well as some ideas to enhance your book club experience. Some of the themes you might want to explore include marriage, family, duty, career, friendship, literature, sacrifice, guilt, parent/child relationships, technology, communication, choices, grief, and self awareness.

I loved A WINDOW OPENS! It was both smart and entertaining, but most importantly it touched my heart. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

This book really appeals to me and your review has convinced me I need to read it soon. Reading all the "book talk" right now sounds so good!

Kay said...

I really want to get to this book soon. It totally appeals to me and I'm hearing such good things. The first paragraph of the book (which I peeked at) suits me completely. LOL

Amy Crawshaw said...

Thanks for this post - I've been keeping my eyes and ears open for a good suggestion for my book club and this one sounds great!

Karen White said...

ooh, gonna recommend this to my book club!