The Beautiful Bureaucrat; Helen Phillips
Henry Holt & Co - 2015
When I saw that readers who enjoy Murakami and Atwood would likely enjoy this book, I knew I had to give it a try. It's a great choice for book groups with plenty to discuss.
After being out of work for way too long Joseph and Josephine, a 30-something couple move to an unnamed city from the "hinterlands" where Joseph has just found a job. Soon after Josephine is hired as an administrative assistant but, her job and the workplace is anything but ideal.
Josephine's office is a windowless, dingy pink room (9997) with bright fluorescent lighting. Her faceless, boss, known only as, "The Person with the Bad Breath" provides her with files and instructions, Strictly data entry work, file after file she dutifully enters a series of numbers from the files into a database. She is not allowed to ask questions or discuss her job with anyone. She can't even hang a calendar on her disgusting office walls. Then there's a girl named Trishiffany who calls her JoJo and who knows way too much personal information about Josephine, information that she's pretty sure she has never shared. It gets more creepy and bizarre from there.
Josephine's happy that at the end of the day she at least has her husband and the latest horrible place they call home to look forward to. However, when Joseph doesn't come home one night and then when he does return he becomes more distant, Josephine's anxiety kicks into high gear. She thought their relationship was solid and that she could count on him and they silly routines and word games.
The story is told from Josephine's POV, and although it's a novel fewer than 200 pages, there's plenty to like about this story. A blend of real and surreal, touching and thrilling and with a good dose of dark humor, The Beautiful Bureaucrat will make you smile and make you wonder. The ending was unexpected and honestly it made me go back and read some of the story again. A good choice for book groups to consider.
(sent by publisher)