CBR12 Bingo: No Money! This was an Amazon First Reads book.
Cleo McDougal is a 37-year-old U.S. Senator and single mom to 14-year-old Lucas. She is considering a presidential run and suddenly gets a lot of press when her former best friend MaryAnne pens an op-ed calling Cleo a cheater and claiming that while Cleo might do good things, she is not a good person. Cleo shares with Gaby, her close friend and campaign manager, that she has a list of 233 regrets (ultimately more like confessions), ranging from small (not tipping a barista) to large (having a relationship with a married professor). They decide Cleo will go on a sort of apology tour to express some of her regrets, starting with confronting MaryAnne.
The op-ed was right in some ways: Cleo is definitely flawed. She’s not a villain or antihero by any means, but she’s definitely made some slimy choices, such as sabotaging MaryAnne’s chance at an internship, and she’s not always likeable. The novel explores what led her to make the various choices she’s made, such as a need to be the best and always win and feeling that she can’t rely on anyone. There is a lot of waffling about whether she regrets her decisions or would make the same choices over again. I’m making an assumption that this isn’t due to bad writing but was a conscious decision by Allison Winn Scotch to show how hard it can be to admit that one has made mistakes and to come to terms with one’s past.
Cleo is a staunch feminist, and this is brought up a lot in the book. Cleo and her staff understand that men have more power, especially in politics; that how female politicians dress unfortunately matters; that Gaby needs to be careful not to come across as an “angry Black woman.” The number of comments along these lines were frequent enough to become almost tiresome (in spite of being accurate), but they didn’t really bother me until I got to this one: “. . . once you called one woman crazy, you opened the door to call all of them crazy. And more often than not, women were not only saner than men but actually less hysterical” (p. 119). That just seemed to be unnecessary male-bashing.
This was fairly quick, easy read. 3 stars.