I am really excited to be part of the blog tour for Impersonation by Heidi Pitlor from Algonquin Books.
When I first requested the ARC I thought, something about this book is reeling me in. As I read it, I realized what interested me was a combination of elements in the book.
A little background:
"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?"
First, I was really excited to read about a ghostwriter, someone hired to write a book for someone else. It's common for celebrities and other public figures to use ghostwriters for their memoirs. If you're an avid reader and you've heard of some household names, you've probably heard that they use ghostwriters as well, to crank out novel after novel.
But how often do we actually consider the ghostwriter? We usually just consider whether or not we think one was used. But what must it be like to be a ghostwriter? In a world where so many of us are looking for acknowledgment and recognition, what must it be like to never receive any credit for your work?
Second, I love reading about moms and parents. We live in a world where moms are so ruthlessly criticized. So I gravitate towards stories about mothers, because I think those stories are so important in reminding us that there is more to a woman than being a mother. That even when they have children, we shouldn't see that as their only identity. We would never see ourselves as just one thing, and yet so often the world does that to women.
Which brings me to the next thing that took hold of my interest. The two women in this story are from different worlds. One a single mom, struggling to pay rent, and the other a career woman about to run for office post MeToo, essentially taking the world by storm.
I love the idea of women supporting women, but quite often my experience has been that we come up short in practice. I think we tend to forget the ways that women have different needs, due to race or class. It's something many women don't want to talk about. So I was really looking forward to diving into this story where two women with different means find that their paths coincide, even if for a moment. I wanted to see how that would unfold. I was curious, whether the story would be similar to my own experiences.
As I got into the book, I loved seeing things from Allie's perspective. In hindsight, I expected a story with multiple points of view, but I'm really glad that wasn't the case. Not that I don't like that style, and of course it could have worked had Pitlor made that choice. But I'm really glad she didn't. Because our world has Lanas, and they have their memoirs, and we will read them one day. But where else will we get Allie's story?
I loved the way the tension builds in the book. I started to anticipate a "Little Fires Everywhere" style collision between the two women.
But this book isn't Little Fires Everywhere. It's a slow burn, and I really savoured every minute of it.
The one thing that made this story difficult to read, for me personally, is the setting of the book. Touching on both the 2016 election and the Me Too Movement, I would recommend that if you're in a mental space where you need to escape, you may want to put off reading this book at another time. But you definitely should read it.
Even though these events do not play a specific role in the story, they do come up and help give a sense of the time and place in the story, and provide that underlying tension. The need for more women in office, the pressure for the book to do well, and for Lana to win her campaign. It might not have felt as pressing had the book been placed at another time.
I also felt that the portrayals of these women were very accurate. The way Allie feels about the 2016 election and news around the Me Too Movement, and the way she deals with those emotions, I think, is something that will resonate with many readers.
Overall, I would recommend this book!
I usually include recommended book pairings, however, the way Lana is determined to be a champion for poor working mothers, I found myself going back to some of my earlier work this year. Because while reading Impersonation, you may find yourself thinking a lot about the different hardships mothers can face. And you may find yourself thinking about ways to support mothers. So, I wanted to highlight an organization I learned about back in June that does just that. And if you feel inspired, I hope you will make a donation as well!
The organization I fell in love with back in June is called the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.
Racial disparities in healthcare are real, and maternal mortality is just one aspect of that. Black women are more likely to die during childbirth, even when you factor in things like income and access to healthcare. As someone who loves children, and can't wait to have them one day, I want a world where every mother is empowered and cared for, so that she can bring her child into this world safely.