Monday, August 17, 2020

Impersonation by Heidi Pitlor

 Allie Lang is a single mother, by choice.  She lives with her five year old son, Cass and her on-again, off-again boyfriend.  Allie is a ghostwriter by profession, although she has to supplement her income with substitute teaching and landscaping odd jobs.  Her childcare is shaky.  She can't afford a fulltime program so she has Cass in a childcare center one or two days a week for the socialization and then she has a neighbor watch him on other days.  Unfortunately, the neighbor is elderly and getting forgetful but it's what Allie can afford.  Her days are filled with uncertainty and she can't plan for the future like those in more stable situations are able to.  But she has tons of time to spend with her son and she is her own boss, reliant on herself and her creativity to carve out a life.

When her latest ghostwriting assignment blows up, Allie is at loose ends.  Then a dream job comes her way.  Lana Breban is a famous woman, a feminist who has come to embody the struggle.  She is a household name but her team feels that a biography would humanize her, showing her as not only a revolutionary but a wife and mother.  They hire Allie and she is ecstatic as Lana is one of her heroes.  But the work doesn't go well.  Lana is constantly off somewhere, at conferences and rallies, brainstorming with corporate heads and lawmakers.  She gives Allie very little material and it becomes apparent, there is little to give.  Lana has been a very hands off mother, leaving the raising of her child to a housekeeper and nannies.  Under pressure, Allie slowly begins to substitute in her own memories and struggles of being a mother.  Lana is pleased and tells Allie to do more of that and when the book is finished it is more Allie's story than Lana's.  But trouble is waiting in the wings.

Heidi Pitlor has worked in the publishing industry for most of her career.  She is also the senior editor of the Best American Short Stories series since 2007.  Her inside knowledge of the publishing industry makes this novel authentic.  She is a wife and mother to twins so she knows the difficulties of motherhood.  In Allie, she has created a woman that the reader can instantly relate to and cheer for.  The novel illustrates the difficulties women face without being preachy about them.  This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction and relationships.

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