Monday, August 24, 2020


Author:  Heidi Pitlor
Publication Information:  Algonquin Books. 2020. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1616207914 / 978-1616207915

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher book tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I once saw a woman in a library pick up a biography of Mother Teresa."

Favorite Quote:  "'Sometimes people aren't nice,' I began. 'Then why are you always telling me to be nice?' Because someone has to break the cycle. Kindness can be contagious. And it has to start somewhere, right?"

***** Blog Tour *****


Allie is a ghostwriter. A nondisclosure clause is an integral part of every assignment. Her books have been successful, but she is not successful. She is lways struggling to make ends meet and create a stable life for her and her son. Her contracts never seem to be comparable to the money going to the stated author or the publisher. On top of that, her latest project is cancelled, and rent and other bills are way past due.

A new project brings Lana Breban, a successful, strong woman who is an economist, a lawyer, and a women's advocate. She is married, a mother, and a vocal feminist. The focal point of the memoir is to be motherhood. Allie is to be the ghostwriter. From the inception to the culmination of this project, Allie's voice and her story cover a lot of issues that have dominated the headlines in recent years.

I love books that reference other books. Allie is trying to read a book titled To the Lighthouse by Virginia Wolff. She describe the book as follows. "Someone had once said of the book, 'Nothing happens, and everything happens.' The same could be said about life, I thought." The reference to the book repeats over and over again though the narrative as Allie in unable to move forward with her reading. To me, the description and Allie's inability to move forward with her reading is a metaphor for this story and for where Allie is in her life. To some extent, nothing happens, but a lot of ground is covered in this book.

The time period is 2016-2017 in the United States, the time leading up to and subsequent to the the 2016 presidential election. Political commentary becomes part of this book, with what I feel is an accurate description of the emotional upheavals that many people went through during that time. Given the time period, the #metoo movement becomes a background for this book along with the women's marches. Given that Allie is always struggling for money, the issue of pay equity is there. On a more personal level, the book is very much about relationships and about motherhood. Allie's love for her son and her attempt at trying to do the best for him shines through. Watching the differences between Allie's household and Lana's also highlights the conversations around privilege and class.

I am not always a fan of books that are character driven rather than plot driven, but this one works. Allie, in all her imperfections, becomes a character I relate to. Perhaps, it is the time period and the emotion of it. Perhaps, it is her joy in motherhood. Perhaps, it is the constant balancing act between home, work, and relationships. Perhaps, it is because I find ghostwriting a fascinating subject. Perhaps, it is the insight into the publishing world from an author who has long been part of the industry.

Mostly, though, I think it is the way Allie's character is drawn. I fall in love with Allie's voice and fly through the story to see where it goes.

About the Author

Heidi Pitlor is the author of the novels The Birthdays and The Daylight Marriage. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007 and the editorial director of Plympton, a literary studio. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Huffington Post, Ploughshares, and the anthologies It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers. She lives outside Boston.

About the Book

As the longtime series editor of The Best American Short Stories, Heidi Pitlor brings her talent for capturing the zeitgeist to her remarkably timely new novel, IMPERSONATION (Publication Date: August 18, 2020; $26.95), which follows a single, working-class ghostwriter as she inhabits the world of her subject, a high-profile, powerhouse women's rights attorney. “Heidi Pitlor has written a wonderfully rare thing,” Kate Walbert, author of A Short History of Women. “A comedy of manners set in the 21st century that brilliantly grapples with some of the more thorny issues of class, privilege, and parenting of our day. Smart, funny, and generous in spirit, IMPERSONATION is an engaging meditation on who controls the narrative and why it matters.”

Years of striving to meet cultural and parental expectations for both career and family have drained Allie Lang's idealism. But on the cusp of #MeToo and the 2016 election, she is offered the job of writing a memoir for Lana Breban, who hopes a book about motherhood will soften her steely image. After years of working as a ghostwriter for other celebrities, Allie knows the drill: she has learned how to inhabit the lives of others and tell their stories better than they can. But this time, everything becomes more complicated. Allie’s childcare arrangements unravel; she falls behind on her rent; her subject, Lana, is better at critiquing than actually providing material; and Allie’s partner decides to go on a road trip towards self-discovery. At what point will Allie speak up for all that she deserves?

“I suppose being a kind of worker bee myself inspired the idea, as well as the economic disparities that exist within publishing,” says Pitlor, author of the critically acclaimed novels The Birthdays and The Daylight Marriage and former book editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “When I was first an acquiring editor and later a part-time freelance editor with young twins and a teacher husband, things got pretty tight for us. I found myself shuttling between some fabulous work lunch at the Four Seasons with a well-known writer and a dinner of Kraft mac n’ cheese with my family. Twin diapers and daycare do not come cheap. When some more financially comfortable friend mentioned an upcoming eco-conscious vacation or their locally made toys, I grew frankly jealous, well aware that this was a first-world trouble. Still, I began to wonder if living according to certain ideals was only possible for the economically privileged.” Through this lens, with a satirical eye and a feminist bent, Pitlor, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Ploughshares, and elsewhere, scrutinizes the society that scrutinizes women, delving into the complex interplay between class, politics, and family, in and out of the public eye.

“IMPERSONATION is the book we need now,” says Anna Solomon, author of The Book of V. “An unflinching look at our current moment, and at questions few of us dare to ask. If our personas do good in the world, does it matter what we did to create them? How much hypocrisy are liberals willing to tolerate? Can women raise good men? Provocative, heartfelt, and often hilarious, this is a novel I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.”

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment