fiction / review

Impersonation by Heidi Pitlor

I read Heidi Pitlor’s first book back in March. I had found it a little odd stylistically but the subject matter–a wife disappears–was interesting and dealt with in a serious fashion that this current trend to the sensational in publishing rarely seems to do well.

This book is about another woman on the margins of middle class life but in a different way. Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and single mother. After a man who’s memoir she is nearly finished writing is accused of sexual assault, she finds herself out of a job and low on cash. She gets picked to ghostwrite the parenting memoir of a famous feminist right around the time of the Trump election. You’d think that would be easier but the subject refuses to give Allie any material to work with so Allie increasingly adds details to the memoir from her own single motherhood, a move that ultimately proves explosive.

I loved the parts about being a working class writer. As the author of several cookbooks, I know you do not make as much money writing books as you would think and that you are paid in small chunks until the book is completed. I also had a book pulled years ago over an issue totally unrelated to me and only ended up with a kill fee and not the several more thousand dollars my contract was for. I can only imagine how much worse that is as a single mother. I did not relate to Allie’s personality much, she was very passive and unsure of herself for most of the book but I really did relate to her situation and felt like the book did an excellent job of illustrating the actual work of the every day freelance writer. Spoiler: it’s not as well paying and glamorous as it may seem.

I felt like the book faltered a bit at the end. Allie took the blame for something that I didn’t feel was entirely her fault. I liked the acceptance that even in progressive, feminist circles those in power step over everyone else to get there and that even those who seem to have it all, clearly don’t. I loved the first 7/8th of the book but that last bit just seemed forced–the working on the campaign part was rushed and I had to read a couple passages twice because I thought I missed something, something I rarely have to do. A lot happened in a very short period of time and then the book just ended. The end seemed very “ripped from the headlines” to me and at odds with the style of the rest of the book; almost as if something else was written before but then something was added in to make it more topical.

I read this back to back with With or Without You which was also about a 40th something struggling with relationships, career and not having quite as much money or being quite as settled as they may have expected at this point in their life. I really do feel like there is a market for more these 40-something coming of age novels, we were all modeled and told as children about a lifestyle that really doesn’t exist any more.

Thanks again to Algonquin for approving me for an ARC on Netgalley and allowing me to participate in this blog tour.

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