Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book review: Younger by Pamela Redmond Satran

Yes, I read this book because of the TV show based on it. It's changed a bit (not to mention it's ten years old) but it was still thoroughly enjoyable.

Alice's husband left last year. Then her daughter announced she was leaving college to go to Africa with the Peace Corps. Alice, a 44-year-old housewife in New Jersey is bereft, alone, and hasn't had a job since she was 22 and had had to quit when her pregnancy developed complications. On New Years Eve she visits her best friend, Maggie, in Manhattan, and lets Maggie do a bit of a makeover on her. Alice is shocked to find that after a year of depression when she did nothing but garden and work out, she is svelte again, and in fact looks like she's in her (late) twenties. At Maggie's urging, she reapplies to all the publishers who rejected her a year earlier, when she was middle-aged and looking for entry-level work. As a twenty-something, Alice gets hired to work as the assistant to a very difficult Marketing Manager at the same publisher she'd worked at twenty years earlier. The Marketing Manager is awful, and she's also younger than Alice really is, and juggling a powerful, demanding job and three kids. Alice wonders if she made the right decisions, opting our of the rat race in order to try to have a large, happy family.

Meanwhile she's met a guy at a bar, Josh, who seems very cool even though he's too young for her in reality, and she's befriended an editor at work, Lindsay, who is dating one of the publishers on the sly, an awful guy. She moves in with Maggie, an artist in a loft in the East Village, who finally decides it's time for her to have a child. Alice finds parts of being a 20-something freeing, and she finds part of it revelatory. While there's no magic involved, she does wonder if she'd make the same decisions again, if she could do everything over. What was the right thing to do? And can she get a do-over?

The book had some deeper themes for a lightweight chick lit novel. But they were appropriately treated with a fairly light hand, and didn't weigh the book down. But it wasn't a completely fluffy and silly book. The book had even less about the publishing industry than the TV show, as it was just a place where she worked for the most part. I really enjoyed it. It was refreshingly different for a book in this genre, yet that doesn't mean it was trying too hard. As for people who think it's too far-fetched, I look very young myself and think I could pass with different hair and wardrobe, and I also understand why she isn't getting hired at her age with barely 6 months' experience, 20+ years ago. It's not that she's not qualified (although I would wonder if her computing skills were up to par), it's that she's unlikely to be happy in such a low-level, demeaning position as an assistant usually is. Heck, I had nearly aged out of the editorial-assistant position when I got mine at 26 and it was hard for me to kowtow to full editors who were the same age as me. This book was a fun, easy read for a summer afternoon.

I checked this book out of the library.

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