A Window Opens
By Elisabeth Egan
Can a woman have it all? Perhaps not all, but maybe everything important to her, once she knows what those are, the point of Elisabeth Egan’s novel. It’s an especially good read because it feels real. It feels real because challenges and concerns besetting narrator Alice Pearse will ring familiar to many readers. That Egan writes with splashes of wit and no pretense whatsoever add to the enjoyment.
Alice and her husband Nicholas seem to have it all. They live in an upscale suburban New Jersey community. He’s a lawyer in a firm in New York City. She’s a stay-at-home mom with a part-time job. They have a nice home that needs work but is comfortable. They have three young children and a dog. The bit of heartache in Alice’s life concerns her father, who has had throat cancer but who seems to be doing well several years after onset and treatment.
Then their lives become undone. Nicholas, learning he will not make partner in his firm, reacts with anger, thus burning his bridges to other large firms. He decides to open his own law office in their suburban community. Since it will take time to build his practice, it falls to Alice to find a job with a good salary and benefits, which she does, with a company that seems to play to her strengths and interests: books and reading. It’s a demanding job, a 24/7/365 type, with offices in New York, so toss in commuting. As you can imagine, her work and home life clash, causing all kinds of conflicts and feelings of guilt. Add to the mix a recurrence of her father’s cancer and Nicholas’s combination of veiled resentment at her apparent success, his lackadaisical approach to building his business, and his retreat into the bottle, and you can see the stress faced by Alice.
Readers will identify more strongly with different aspects of the novel: home life, caring for a sick parent, demanding work. There’s something for everybody here. However, those working in this age of constant communication and marketing newspeak will find the work scenes particularly interesting. Alice can never leave her work behind; it’s always with her; it interferes with what really matters to her. In fact, it turns against some things she prizes highly.
In the end, she has to make decisions about her family, her husband, her work, and what she values most. Some may not be entirely pleased with how the novel resolves itself in the end, but at least Egan attempts to address concerns confronting families these days. Four stars might be a bit generous, but it is better than most of this type. w/c