July 28, 2015

A Window Opens - Elisabeth Egan

A Window Opens book cover
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Source/Format: BEA 2015 || ARC
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]

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?

Elisabeth Egan is a fresh voice in the world of adult fiction, though she's best known as the books editor at Glamour magazine. Her savvy with words certainly helps make A Window Opens incredibly readable in spite of its length. But it is the simplicity of her story and how it has the potential to strike a chord with a variety of readers that really make it remarkable. In spite of a sluggish beginning, A Window Opens wound up grabbing my attention and holding it until I turned the very last page.

It might sound like an unassuming tale, but I certainly found myself inspired to do some reflection post-read. A Window Opens tackles the story of Alice Pearse, a mother, wife and part-time book reviewer, who finds herself on the hunt for a new full-time job when her husband decides to leave the law firm he was working for. When she snags a well-paying job with Scroll, a new start-up company that aims to be the future of reading, it seems like it is all going to be okay.

A Window Opens reveals that, while there are indeed some very triumphant, sweet moments, there are also a lot of difficult moments and tough choices that she faces. Readers get a glimpse of both what is and isn’t ideal about being in her position via Egan’s realistic portrayal of Alice’s life after she starts working with Scroll. Personally, I found it riveting. I couldn’t stop turning the pages, even though there were moments where I felt my hackles rising, my heart breaking or my hope faltering, emotions shifting as the situation called for it.

Once I’d hit the end, I found myself thinking about my own life and considering my options, inspired by the way Alice had no choice but to face her circumstances and figure out her own path in life. There were three things in particular that stood out to me about her story:
  • Sometimes, life throws you curveballs. Or you might make bad choices. You need to be willing to face the problems head-on in order to figure out a solution, and willing to accept that fact that you might make mistakes along the way.
  •  It is important to decide what your priorities are in life, and let that dictate how you live it. If you know what you value the most, the decision-making process tends to become a whole lot simpler and easier.
  •  When a door closes, a window opens. Just because you don’t see it yet, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a silver lining hiding in there somewhere.
Life lessons and my personal connection aside, A Window Opens really does happen to be a well-written contemporary novel. It is a fairly simple plot, but Egan sure manages to throw you a curveball of her own with some unexpectedly emotional twists. If you’re on the lookout for a new author to try, or a thoughtfully written adult contemporary, then this might just be the book for you.


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