Sunday, September 20, 2015

Balancing Act: A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan

Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she—Alice Pearse—really want?

Elizabeth Egen's debut novel A Window Opens finds the fine line between melodrama and humor. We watch Alice's life go from a perfect balance of life and work to losing control. The story could have become tear-jerking sad, or it could have become humor, a satire on choices women have to make today. I felt it hit the right, life-like mix.

Alice in nearing forty, married fifteen years to a corporate lawyer vying for partnership, and mother to three kids (and a dog). She works three days a week at a job she loves: reading books. When her husband discovers he isn't in line for partner, he quits his job and decides to open his own law office. To help finances Alice takes a full time position with a new company, Scroll. It seems like a dream job. She is lucky that her babysitter can work full time, and the kids love her, and her husband can fill in when needed. All seems well. For a while.

As her job demands more of her time and energy Alice has less to give at home. Things happen and Alice feels out of control. Her father finds his cancer has returned. Her husband isn't taking his career change well; he is drinking to excess. Her kids are changing and Alice isn't there to notice. Her coworkers and bosses are not really friends; it's all about the money at Scroll.

I understand Alice's life. My dad died of cancer, and Mom too; I know all about that. After Mom died, Dad couldn't face the empty house and took to having a few drinks when he came home from work. My husband lost a job, has struggled with job changes. I tired to juggle a 30 hour a week, home office job while homeschooling.

Egan gets things pretty accurate.

And I liked Alice. She tosses around books and quotes and I get them. This is a book about a reader and readers will love Alice. Her kids go to the local bookstore and bring home piles of books. But they are not allowed to play video games. She is an optimist with a can-do attitude, a gal who wants to make her daddy proud. That attitude also means she holds out hope while ignoring the warning signs.

I like that Nicholas and Alice struggle with their life changes. Neither do so great; Alice allows her job to take over her life and Nicholas seeks escape from the pressures. Like real people. Communication breaks down. After the death of Alice's father she forgets that her husband is also grieving. And I like that their love is able to slog through until they can find themselves again.

Egan saves her satire for Scroll founder Greg, a man who is chasing the big bucks and changes his mind about what Scroll is according to the latest research reports. Scroll is big on going paperless; hence the preference of ebooks over 'carbon based' books. Greg doesn't consider that electron devices need power, and power means a need for fossil fuels. So it's not about being Green. Scroll looks for individuality, then insists on conformity. Alice's  boss Genvieve tells her, "I've got your back" then sends an email warning Alice about what behavior is acceptable at Scroll.

I agree with the review by Tabitha Blankenbiller at Bustle when she writes, "Although the situation in A Window Opens feels grim, the novel remains true to Alice's spirit and refuses to become dreary. The book could have easily fallen to the predicable trope...women has all, women loses all, woman starts over....It's easy to write about families that totally fall apart and relationships that implode; it takes much more tact and skill to write about strain and ultimate resilience."

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

A Window Opens
Elisabeth Egan
Simon & Schuster
Publication date August 26, 2015
$26.00 hard cover

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