A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: August 2015
Genre: adult fiction, women’s fiction
Alice Pearse 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?
When her husband decides to make a radical career change, Alice Pearse takes the reins and lands a job at Scroll, a young start-up that promises to be the future of reading in the digital age. She is going to be a full-time working mother, happy in her career and her personal life. But as her father’s health declines, her marriage flounders, and her work takes an unexpected turn, Alice begins to wonder if the question isn’t is possible to have it all, but does she know what she really wants?
It’s amazing how a book seems to fall into your lap at just the right time in your life for you to fully appreciate it. When fiction quasi-parallels life, or when several passages state exactly what you’re feeling in that moment of your life so distinctly, you know it’s a case of the book finding you. For me, it was the health issues Alice’s father faced. His lung cancer, death process, and the grieving process post-death mirrored so much of my grandfather’s last few months. He passed away just as I started reading this book, too. It affected me more than I ever could have expected.
Scroll, Alice’s new job, is an Amazon-meets-Apple-meets-Google set up. Alice works at the NYC headquarters for MainStreet, a futuristic mostly-online retailer, and she’s in the thick of the planning for all these Scroll store openings across the country. MainStreet has a hand in several areas of business, and the bookstore was their next unconquered landscape. But it’s very demanding, and Alice becomes one of those working moms: constantly attached to her phone, speaking in business lingo, losing touch with her children, and completely unaware of life passing by.
More than anything, this is a journey in Alice’s life we’re glimpsing, and it was a thinker. What do you want in life? How would you handle the situations she’s thrown into? Would you have made the same decisions? I will say for sure I was very pleased with how Egan handled the marriage struggles. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows — but it’s also not all doom and gloom.
A simple story well told, this book is a perfect read in our social-media-obsessed age. Mothers and working women would identify with Alice and her honest humor as she navigates a new job, experiences the next stage of a marriage, and watches the declining health of her father. Validating, entertaining, and true to life, Egan delivers a fantastic story and cast of characters.
This qualifies as book 5 of 5 library books in 2017.