Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"A Window Opens," by Elisabeth Egan

“A Window Opens” (Simon and Schuster, 2015), by Elisabeth Egan, is a light-ish, moderately enjoyable, but fairly predictable novel in the growing “women trying to balance home and work and everything else” genre. Alice Pearse refers to the difficulties of trying to do it all and have it all, but because of the cushion of an almost unbelievably excellent nanny, a flawed-but-basically excellent husband and father, back-up support from Alice’s parents, seemingly extremely well-adjusted children, and slight money problems that turn out not to be too serious, the difficulties are somewhat diluted. As a committed feminist, I would be the last to dismiss the problems encountered by women (and men) balancing careers and families, with woefully inadequate societal support systems that the United States should be ashamed of. It is just that this story doesn’t really make readers feel how hard this situation can be. There is also a whiff of building the story around issues: not only the work-life balance issue, but also that of soul-less corporate America (tech version), here in the guise of something ostensibly, initially, positive but then not (a business about reading electronically that turns into a business about video games), but that the author (rightfully) depicts as clearly completely inauthentic and hypocritical. Other issues addressed include how technology is affecting our world and especially children, sometimes negatively, and the dangers of alcohol addiction (although the novel seems to downplay the latter problem, and makes it seem easy for a person to stop drinking excessively). Alice is also facing the serious illness and then death of her beloved father. All of these are certainly very real parts of the life of a contemporary woman in New York City (living in the suburbs, working in the city) and elsewhere, and perfectly legitimate plot points and themes, but somehow it seems that they are a bit artificially inserted into the story as representatives of various issues.
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