Title: A Window Opens
Author: Elisabeth Egan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub Date: August 25, 2015
Source: Provided by publisher
In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine, Elisabeth Egan, brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age.
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?
Let me be frank: I liked this book a lot more than I thought I was going to. In the book’s official synopsis, Egan’s protagonist Alice Pearse is compared to Bridget Jones . . . and I like Bridget Jones. But my opinion of Bridget is so tied to her stereotype in the hive-mind (whiny, shallow, and silly) that I hesitated to jump into A Window Opens, hoping that Egan did not base the story on a whiny caricature of a woman. That would have been a deal breaker for me. I had nothing to worry about – Alice is an intelligent and complex character that the reader can easily relate to.
A Window Opens is easily classified as Women’s Fiction, but it didn’t take me long to realize that Egan’s writing is some of the best in the genre. I think that, looking back on the book now, I would categorize it as Contemporary Fiction as well. The way I see it, for a title to be considered Women’s Fiction, it only needs have the following: A female protagonist, a female author, and a suburban/middle class foundation on which to build the story. This book has all of these, but also weaves in issues of terminal illness, generational gaps, and technology’s role in society. This would be a great book club pick! There’s so much to talk about and relate to.
The plot started out a little bit slow. I wasn’t sure I was going to finish this book. But somewhere around 100 pages in, I found myself hooked. That’s the most miraculous way to become engrossed in a novel: gradually. When did it happen? How did it happen? Why? Just one of life’s little mysteries that I’m going to accept without question right now.
I really enjoy a good bit of Women’s Fiction every now and then to cleanse the literary palette. It’s easy to read and often fun to read as well. And I don’t have to worry about getting used to weird alien planet names, or pay too much attention to historical details. A Window Opens surprised me by being more than just entertaining and refreshing. It is insightful and devastatingly truthful.
But the thing I liked the most about this book was the obvious love of books that Egan instilled in Alice and her best friend. Books about books contain the incredible gift of making the reader feel like a true insider. This book did that for me.
I especially recommend this book to fans of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, of Barbara Kingsolver, and Zadie Smith.
About the Author:
Elisabeth Egan is the books editor at Glamour. Her essays and book reviews have appeared in Self, Glamour, O, People, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Huffington Post, The New York Times Book Review, LA Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Newark Star-Ledger. She lives in New Jersey with her family.