Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Liza Palmer - The Nobodies

If there's one thing Joan Dixon knows about herself, it's that she is a damn good journalist. But when she is laid off from yet another soon-to-be-shuttered newspaper, and even the soulless, listicle-writing online jobs have dried up, she is left with few options. Closer to 40 than 30, single, living with her parents again, Joan decides she needs to reinvent herself. She goes to work as a junior copywriter at Bloom, a Los Angeles startup where her bosses are all a decade younger and snacks and cans of fizzy water flow freely.
For once, Joan has a steady paycheck and a stable job. She befriends a group of misfit coworkers and even begins a real relationship, after years of false starts. But once a journalist, always a journalist, and as Joan starts to poke beneath Bloom’s bright surface, she realizes that she may have accidentally stumbled onto the scoop of her lifetime. Is it worth risking everything for the sake of the story?
Charmingly candid, hilarious, and deeply moving, The Nobodies is a novel about failing but never losing the core of yourself, from a beloved writer at the top of her game.

Comment: I've added this book to my TBR in 2019 because the premise was interesting, I was curious to see a woman of the same age I'm now trying to start again in life and how that would be developed.

In this story we meet Joan Dixon, a 36 year old woman whose journalist career has finally fizzled out. Out of a job and prospects, Joan is back with her parents, desperately looking for a new job. Things aren't easy, though, and with new rejection, Joan feels she won't succeed until she is called back after an interview at Bloom, a trendy startup, to be a copywriter. Everything about the new job seems to be a challenge, especially in dealing with her coworkers who are all younger and talk about references lost on Joan. Still, she does find a small group of friends and as they become closer, Joan shares her doubts about the startup and how well it is doing. Joan might not be a journalist now but her ability to notice something shady isn't gone... or could she be trying to see things where they don't exist?

I think the idea of this book is a great and modern one. Someone trying to start again has to be a scenario happening every single day for thousands of people out there and from my personal experience of looking for a job and getting tired and unmotivated as time went by and nothing worked out, I was ready to commiserate with Joan and see how much I would see myself on some of her emotions.

This was a complicated story to read in that regard because putting aside the plot and the whole startup thing, this is actually the story of someone with low self esteem when the story begins, someone who sounds like is going through a depression although that word isn't used and I can't truly access it as such....but it feels like it. In fact, there were scenes and some passages - we have Joan's POV throughout the whole novel - I felt really down and almost angry Joan was so miserable. That saying no one likes to be around sad and miserable people has some truth for Joan's thoughts started to be quite heavy.

I did see myself in some of it, which only added to the negative impressions, and I think the author really showed part of the less spoken side of not having a job and being aware of it. We do feel validated by how useful and productive we are and not having it or a source of income to help those around us starts to feel like a flaw, like a problem we should not have. I confess this story was a lot heavier than I anticipated looking at the cover and thinking about the overall fact the plot isn't (just) about that.

Regarding the Bloom situation, there is a lot one could address but to me the interesting element was precisely Joan being older than most of her co workers, most of them by a decade, and how this would be seen and felt by her. It's not easy to blend in, to feel we are part of something and I think the author has given many examples of this difficulty throughout the book. I suppose some elements were a little exaggerated for plot reasons but it dies feel realistic to what we tend to see trending.

Joan embarks on an investigation, despite her sense of failure, despite the recent rejections, with the help of other co workers who don't belong to the "popular" group at work. That workplace could be a high school cafeteria... as they mount up clues and do some stake out, Joan starts to feel the same vibrancy of before but thankfully, the past months of almost depression allow her to consider what she is doing and how those around her might feel if she gets as immersed in this as she used to, in detriment of family and friends' relationships. I liked Joan seemed to be learning something from her new experience.

All this is actually fascinating but I still struggled to enjoy this book for a main reason: the narrative is told in such a confusing way. There's a constant jump from subject to subject, scene to scene and I felt I wasn't given enough structure to process what was intended before something else is suddenly happening. I feel the execution of this story could have been done better and that would have helped readers gain more from this book.

All things considered, this had great bones, lacked better execution. The themes addressed were interesting, were a lot more serious than some of the cute details might imply. There's a little bit of romance too, but be aware some dark/serious subjects are mentioned and discussed by the characters.
Grade: 6/10

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