A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

Thursday, August 13, 2015


A Window Opens
I'm not sure of your belief system - Georgie says she is "Half Jewish, half Christmas."

A Window Opens isn't exactly my kind of book. I generally try to stay away from books focusing on the do-it-all or have-it-all kind of woman, because they can be quite depressing and unrealistic to read. But for some reason, I accepted this book for review - maybe my pregnancy hormones contributed to that decision or this was just the read I was looking forward to.

Alice is living the life she loves. Mom to three kids, she worked part-time at a magazine and was heavily involved with her kids' school lives. Her husband, Nicholas (never called Nick or Nicky), was working at a law firm, hoping to be made partner someday. However, the partnership doesn't work out and Nicholas quits his job to start his own law firm. This would involve a few months of no pay while he established his reputation and client-base, so they were going to be short on cash for a while.

To make sure they don't run out of money, Alice takes up a full-time job at Scroll, an Amazon-like company that was going to launch reading lounges across the country where customers could sample an ebook and later purchase them - something that was bound to be stiff competition for independent bookstores. Although everyone is proud of her initially, things go downhill pretty soon. Her job gets so busy that Nicholas isn't happy, her kids feel as if her work is more important to her than they are, her best friend, who is an independent bookstore owner, feels that Alice is now competition, and her boss is very pushy and not very respectful of employee needs.

There is a lot of ground covered in this book, so let me start with what I didn't like. I work a full-time job, and will soon contend with full-time-employed-mom challenges. I know there are some moms who prefer to stay at home, some who prefer part-time employment, and some who want a full-time career. I wish A Window Opens was a little sensitive to this personal preference. Instead, Alice's decision to go full-time isn't really received well. Her kids start reflecting on her absences (understandable after having a mom go from part-time present to hardly present) and family members voice that she is always too busy. I wanted this book to admit that any kind of lifestyle (stay-at-home, part-time, or full-time) is challenging for any mom and that they all work well as long as the parents are involved with the kids. Instead, Alice received much angst for going full-time, which she did only so that her family will be able to ride it out while Nicholas gets his company afloat.

The other thing that bugged me was that there is a lot of victimizing of moms. (Sure, there are mom jokes in the real world just like there are gay jokes and Jew jokes and blond jokes and you-name-it jokes.) There are no non-moms in this book who don't ridicule moms. Moreover, almost every mom in this book either don't work or work only part-time, and the women who do work seem very inclined to not having a family. The former group tends to scorn the latter and vice versa. It was a little unpleasant to read all that.

Something else that bugged me was Scroll's portrayal. There was nothing good about this company - even the employees had no heart. While a company like Amazon would appear evil on the outside (looking from an independent bookstore's point of view), I am pretty sure that it is a delight to work in this company. Plus, the employees definitely have feelings and opinions. Not everyone who works at Amazon hates print books or would never visit a brick and mortar store, even if their job "appears" to put these stores out of business. There are always two sides to a coin.

With that out of the way, here's the stuff I liked. This book was a delight to read - it was fast-paced and engaging. I was worried I wouldn't be able to relate to Alice at all - that she would be a have-it-all-do-it-all kind of mom or at least a wannabe. She was the very opposite however. She wanted to do more but knew her limits and tried to make things better within those limits. Of course, her efforts were never viewed as enough by her family or her boss.

What I loved most about this book was how well it explored all of Alice's relationships - those with her kids, her husband, her friends, and also with her parents. None of the relationships were compromised in favor of another one. Essentially, Alice was being painted as a more well-rounded character. I did wish for a deeper portrayal of her husband. He was sidelined quite a bit, which was a bit awkward considering that he was also going through a career upheaval.

I also loved that this was set in New York. The city is as much a character in this book as the people are. A Window Opens is definitely an engrossing read. Although, I had issues with the book, on the whole, I thought it was a very unputdownable and enjoyable read. The issues I had did not come in the way of my reading pleasure.


I received this book for free for review from the publisher via NetGalley.

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