Katherine Whitney is the COO of the health food giant Green Goddess and Co, happily married to her professor husband, and mother to two young daughters. She's also the author of a best-selling book about work-life balance, appearing on television and in magazines constantly and acting as a role model to a nation of working mothers. But Katherine's life isn't as easy and as balanced as the shiny façade and the together demeanor might suggest. In fact, without her dedicated assistant, Lucy Cooper, keeping her together, all the balls Katherine has in the air would likely collide. And although Lucy's job is infinitely less high powered than Katherine's, her own life is so out of balance, it's about to crash and burn too.
Lucy originally wanted a position in digital media but to get her foot in the door at Green Goddess, she accepted a position as an assistant. Three years on, she's working for Katherine Whitney and has become indispensable to her, especially now when so many things are all of a sudden converging on Katherine and she's stretched thinner than she's ever been. This means that Lucy is busier than she's ever been too and she finds herself cancelling on her lovely and understanding long-term boyfriend Nick more than she should. When Nick finally proposes marriage to Lucy and she finds herself unable to say yes because of her deep-seated fear of marriage, the chaos at work keeps her from having to dwell on the mess she's making of her own life and what she needs to do to fix it. But eventually, choices will have to be made whether to help Katherine maintain the very public perfect façade she's created or whether to salvage Lucy's own life.
Schnall has captured the harried pressure that many women find themselves facing as they try to achieve perfection in all areas of their lives without having enough hours in the day. Her portrayal of the panic and the stress so many feel when one or more things has to slide in order to focus on the most important thing is spot on and very real. Although the book itself takes a firm stance on the viability of this "having it all" culture we live in, it never feels preachy. It is very much a book of this time with numerous cultural references to firmly place it in the here and now. Lucy's character starts off appealing and likable but the reader wants to smack her when she allows herself to be a doormat and a martyr to work and to the smooth functioning of Katherine's world without taking into account the importance of everything in her own life. Katherine is, on balance, generally kind but she has some spectacular moments of nastiness and selfishness, often not seeing Lucy as anything other than a cog in the machine that she directs. Both women are less sympathetic as the book goes on and they continue to bow to outside expectations to the detriment of their future happiness but their on-going capitulation to these unrealistic expectations points to the question of just why this is such a challenge for women. Is it institutionalized? Is it self-inflicted? And how do we change things without handicapping women? These are questions that aren't really answered, as they really can't be. The problem is continuing and all we can do is try to get to the bottom of it. Readers interested in this dynamic will be find this an interesting and thought-provoking read for sure.
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Thanks to the publisher and BookSparks PR for sending me a copy of the book for review.