Review: A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

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EBOOK; 416 P.
SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2015
SOURCE: FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY

From the beloved books editor at Glamour magazine comes a heartfelt and painfully funny debut about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny—only to learn every opportunity comes at a price.

In A Window Opens, 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.

Back when I was transitioning from young adult fiction to adult fiction, chick lit (or women’s fiction as many prefer it to be called) served as my go-between genre. I guess the attraction lay in the fact that the main characters where often in their twenties or thirties, the tone of the books was mostly humorous and the writing was pretty straightforward. The latter mainly because those books and Agatha Christie were also among the first adult books that I read in English instead of picking up the Finnish translations. So despite having now grown apart from the genre, I still have fond memories. And for that reason, I made a spur of the moment decision and requested A Window Opens from the publisher.

The story of A Window Opens follows Alice Pearse, a mother of three children who works part-time as a books editor in a women’s magazine. Alice is satisfied with her life as she can be there for her children and drive them from school to after-school activities, help them with school projects, participate in the PTA, help her aging parents, enjoy cups of coffee with other mother-friends, host bookish events etc. However, when her husband informs her that their financial situation is about to change drastically, Alice feels ready to take charge and become a full-time working mother – especially when she’s presented with an opportunity to work for an innovative start-up company that’s establishing literary lounges for e-books. However, transitioning from a full-time mom to a full-time career woman is not as easy as Alice initially thought and life has many surprises in store for her as she tries to find a balance between work and family.

A Window Opens is a novel about motherhood in the 21st century and to be honest, it’s a bit scary – all those playdates, extravagant hobbies, PTA commitments, mommy-friend squads just seem too much. As a twenty-something university student, reading about the everyday life of Alice was like listening in on my aunts’ discussions – I can’t completely relate to it or contribute to it, but it got me wondering if I’d go down the same road eventually (hope not). However, what originally got me interested in this novel was its bookishness. The main character is voracious reader and A Window Opens is sprinkled with references to books, both classics as well as new popular titles (mentions include Gone Girl and The Snow Child). Moreover, I really appreciated the fact that Egan chose to write about e-books and the changes they have brought to the book industry. Way too often books about books tend to gloss over the e-book era and focus on those cute, cosy and quirky bookshops that stay unaffected by online shops like Amazon. There are lots of fears and prejudices against e-books and although I don’t think e-books are by default a bad thing for the book industry, it’s good to acknowledge the fact that e-books and online shopping are changing the way we consume books.

A Window Opens is essentially a hearty and warm story about the importance of family, about work-life balance and how, in the end, we are all just humans. I think some working mothers might relate to the main character’s dream to “have-it-all” and others will relate to her work shenanigans. I personally didn’t relate to either, but I found the writing entertaining and that despite its saccharine parts the books had also something to say. I’d recommend A Window Opens to readers who enjoy chick lit/women’s fiction, like to pick up literary references or want to read about work-life balance in the 21st century. Whether Alice Pearse is the new Bridget Jones is an open-ended question.

3.5/5

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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2 thoughts on “Review: A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

    • I think daunting is the exact word I was looking for. Thank you for that 🙂
      And yes, I’d love to read more fiction where e-books are present more than just in the default adversary role.

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