CBR11 BINGO: Reader’s Choice (Sub for Two Heads are Better Than One Square)
I now have a Pavlovian response to any Reese Witherspoon book club pick. I immediately request it from the library. I think that I just need to accept this about myself.
Set in the law offices of a successful Dallas sporting good company, the story is part mystery and part social commentary. It’s an up close look at the unfolding of the #MeToo movement in a corporate office where the man poised to take over as CEO has a reputation for sexual harassing female co-workers.
The story shifts between the three main female characters: Sloane, Ardie and Grace. Each are dealing with their own personal issues: Sloane’s daughter is being bullied at school, Ardie is recently divorced and Grace is suffering from postpartum depression. Having already formed a work place bond that extends into their privates lives, they naturally turn to one another when the structure of the office is on shaky ground.
When the current CEO dies, and Ames is the most likely candidate to replace him, the women in the office are uneasy. At the same time, a “bad man” list is making its way around the internet calling out men in the Dallas business community for very specific acts of sexual harassment. As the list grows, Sloane, Ardie and Grace each feel the urge to act. Can they remain quiet about their own experiences with Ames? Was what they saw or experienced really sexual harassment? Did they invite it? Would they be better off professionally if they just laughed it off? Should they warn or attempt to protect the new female employee, Katherine, who Ames is now paying a lot of attention to?
Baker lays all of this out in a very interesting way. The office life and home life of each character is interspersed with first person plural narration about the struggles of women not only in a male dominated workplace, but in a male skewed world. The balance of work/home life, the expectations of motherhood and mothering and the constant pressure of conforming to an unattainable standard of female beauty are laid out in a very stark and honest way.
The main mystery plot line falls a little short, however. It read a little too much like “Big Little Lies” for my liking. While the ending wasn’t as predictable as I feared, it was pretty close, and it just wasn’t as compelling as the rest of the book.
The narrated bits were, in the end, the strongest part of this novel. Baker doesn’t hold back here and does a very good job of capturing the day to day allowances women make for inappropriate behavior. How navigating sexual harassment and microaggression becomes so ingrained and automatic that we are often unaware that we are even doing it.