BREAK IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
Written by: Jessica Winter
Read by: Xe Sands
8 Hours and 3 Minutes
Penguin Random House Audio | Random House Audio
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Release Date: July 12, 2016
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
An irreverent and deeply moving comedy about friendship, fertility, and fighting for one’s sanity in a toxic workplace.
Jen has reached her early thirties and has all but abandoned a once-promising painting career when, spurred by the 2008 economic crisis, she takes a poorly defined job at a feminist nonprofit. The foundation’s ostensible aim is to empower women, but staffers spend all their time devising acronyms for imaginary programs, ruthlessly undermining one another, and stroking the ego of their boss, the larger-than-life celebrity philanthropist Leora Infinitas. Jen’s complicity in this passive-aggressive hellscape only intensifies her feelings of inferiority compared to her two best friends—one a wealthy attorney with a picture-perfect family, the other a passionately committed artist—as does Jen’s apparent inability to have a baby, a source of existential panic that begins to affect her marriage and her already precarious status at the office. As Break in Case of Emergency unfolds, a fateful art exhibition, a surreal boondoggle adventure in Belize, and a devastating personal loss conspire to force Jen to reckon with some hard truths about herself and the people she loves most.
Jessica Winter’s ferociously intelligent debut novel is a wry satire of celebrity do-goodism as well as an exploration of the difficulty of navigating friendships as they shift to accommodate marriage and family, and the unspoken tensions that can strain even the strongest bonds. http://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/252908/break-in-case-of-emergency/
This story is really interesting — in the many years I worked in non-profits I had not really ever thought of foundations as being vanity plays. Nor, had I ever thought of them being crookedly incompetent. Trying to work seriously in an organization that is being organized to the advantage of all the workers, where everything is a pissing contest and a society for the adulation of the founder is not beyond the imagination however. The frustration of the job would be so irritating; beyond crazy.
Add to that other issues that Jen and her husband are experiencing, an ill-advised trip to the tropics on “foundation business,” and an old friend who has too long infringed upon her goodwill and you have a stressful situation requiring a twist to bring Jen and her husband out of just surviving so they can flourish.
What I didn’t expect in this meek-seeming woman is her artistic ability. For me this book is a tale of art versus money, the sheep-like ability of the wealthy to suck up to contemporary art that is created to take advantage of this ovine quality to stare at the Emperor and admire his new clothes. What’s hard is that Jen has to suffer the fools to make a living, but, is blind to other wrongs. She can be meek, but when she finally speaks up for her art, her world changes. I certainly wishe Jen learned to speak her mind earlier, but needing to earn a living can maker that difficult.
The narration by Xe Sands was great, perfect in tone and delivery, I don’t recall a single jarring note. She really nailed the tired, the defeated, the jaded, and the giggling sycophant personalities.
This is a fine book that made me think about the many ways women are thwarted in their professional lives, and not just by men.