When The Stand-In opens, Gracie Reed has taken a sick day from work to go see a lawyer about whether she has a case against her gross, handsy boss. After an unproductive meeting, she goes to her local coffee shop, hoping for some decadent chocolate treats to lift her spirits. She strikes out there too. What she does get is a bunch of photographers in her face mistaking her for famous Chinese actress Wei Fangli. The next day, she gets fired because her gross boss recognizes her in the photos.
Getting fired is a blessing and a curse. The handsy boss situation had worn away Gracie’s drive and self confidence. But, Gracie needs her income because she is also supporting her mother and trying to get her into a better assisted living facility. Gracie’s mother, who emigrated from China before Gracie was born, has Alzheimer’s. in the middle of this mess swoops Wei Fangli and her bestfriend and co-star, Sam Yao.
Fangli and Sam are in Toronto for a few months starring in stage production. Fangli, over Sam’s objections, wants to hire Gracie to be her double for social engagements where she needs to be seen more than heard. An offer of a whole lot of money overcomes Gracie’s reluctance. The relationships Gracie develops with Fangli and Sam are lovely. In addition, Gracie is able to develop a better relationship with one of her own friends. Gracie has been encouraged not to shine, and then tried to become invisible at work to avoid her gross boss’s attention. As she learns how to play the character “Wei Fangli” she gets her own shine and confidence back. She stands up for herself in the face of Sam’s initial hostility. All through the book, Gracie is trying out and then developing her own to do list/time management program. As someone frequently on the lookout for a way to manage my time and projects more effectively this was of particular interest to me.
Phillipa Soo’s narration gives some heft to what might have been too slight a story. That thing that you see coming from about a quarter of the way in is in fact exactly what arrives. It was an enjoyable listen and I kind of wish Gracie’s app were a real thing.
Tropes: fake dating, enemies to friends to lovers, slow burn, closed door.
CW: sexual harassment, past parental death, difficult parental relationships, mental illness/anxiety, anti-Asian racism.