A Window Opens
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?
(Note: this is an old review from my Goodreads!)
You can have it all!
I really dislike that idea. It presupposes that the All in question is the same for every woman: a happy partner (husband), kids (2-3), pets (usually a dog), friends (a few girlfriends you meet every week for wine), a house, and some hobbies.
Here’s the thing: All does not mean the same thing to every woman (or man), and making the idea of Having It All the zeitgeist was just another way to manipulate the image of what being a “real woman” is.
I think Elisabeth Egan agrees with me. Maybe.
The problem (for me) with focusing this book on Alice’s journey toward the idea of Having It All is that she already did, as far as I could see. She has a loving husband, she has three amazing kids and a pet, she has a best friend and a book club (with wine), she works three days a week at a job that seems to be intellectually fulfilling, and she has her hobbies.
It’s when she has to step up to be the breadwinner that she begins to see that Having It All is a lie, but I’m not sure Alice even knew what she had or wanted anyway. She was enticed by the idea, much like many of us may be, and it took her a long time of sticking through a demanding job and slowly losing her grip on her home life to realize that life was not what she wanted.
This was a quick read, a glimpse into the life of a woman who has to uproot what she knows and has to make big changes to make things work for her family. That is the story I enjoyed. Too bad it had to be couched in the idea of Having It All.
Other things I enjoyed:
– Alice has friends and acquaintances, none of which act like bitchy high school drama queens. There is no slut shaming. Most women Alice knows and likes are supportive of her – and if they’re not, they have a valid reason.
– The story line with her father was great.
– Alice and her husband are growing apart, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still love each other. I loved that there was no hint of temptation. Not every problem in a marriage has to be one of sex.
– It’s a little thing, but Alice turning down the idea of one job because it didn’t sound appealing really bugged me. As someone who spent years looking for any job but still couldn’t get hired, it was like a slap in the face. I can’t be choosy about what jobs I apply for. Most people can’t. That pulled me out of the story incredibly quickly.
– The various use of emails and some chat-layout conversations peppered throughout made sense in context, but I didn’t really like it. They felt like a bit of a crutch in the storytelling.
Overall, A Window Opens wasn’t so bad. It just pushed a few of my buttons very hard.