Title: A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Literary, Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
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?
A Window Opens is a smart, funny and poignant debut novel by Elisabeth Egan. This entertaining story is fast paced with appealing characters that are flawed but easy to relate to. A heartwarming and touching story that will make you laugh and cry as lead protagonist Alice Pearse tries to balance a full time job with the demands of motherhood, marriage and aging parents.
Alice is a happily married mom of three whose peaceful life is about to undergo a dramatic transformation. After a change in her husband Nicholas’s career, she willingly trades in a part time job she loves for a new position job with a new and innovative company. A longer commute and full time hours mean less time with her family, but she is excited to about her new career. However, her enthusiasm soon wanes as her workdays spill over into family time and the company’s focus shifts into areas she is not comfortable with. At the same time, an unexpected and heartbreaking diagnosis for her beloved father adds to her stress when she helps her parents manage his care. Her relationship with Nicholas becomes even more strained when his drinking spirals out of control and their endless fighting takes a toll on their marriage and family life.
Alice’s excitement at her new job quickly wanes when she is thrust into a bewildering position that she knows nothing about. Just as she gets a handle on the demands of the job, the company switches gears, forcing her to once again play catch up. Her workload is overwhelming, her boss’s expectations are ever changing and the long hours leave little time for her spend with her family. She depends more and more on longtime babysitter Jessie to manage the day to day details of the children’s lives which eventually leaves Alice feeling like an outsider to her own life. However, with her family depending on her paycheck, she feels trapped in a job that she is beginning to loathe.
Alice is also heartbroken when her father’s health takes a turn for the worse. With her brother living out of state, her mom is counting on her to go to doctor’s appointments and provide moral support. Working for a big corporation whose main attention is their bottom line, Alice is soon pressured to up her productivity just as her parents need her the most. This story arc is one that will resonate with many readers who often find themselves trying to raise young children while also juggling aging parents and their health issues.
A Window Opens is a heartfelt novel that many readers will relate to. Elisabeth Egan touches on many issues facing women (and families) today in a straightforward and sensitive manner. The characters are well-developed with believable problems to overcome and the storyline is realistic and engaging. An incredibly moving novel that I highly recommend to fans of contemporary literary fiction.