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The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen

BOTTOM LINE: Jane Austen for the corporate world

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 22 May 2018
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“A fast, funny, deeply hilarious debut–The Glitch is the story of a high-profile, TED-talking, power-posing Silicon Valley CEO and mother of two who has it all under control, until a woman claiming to be a younger version of herself appears, causing a major glitch in her over-scheduled, over-staffed, over-worked life.

Shelley Stone, wife, mother, and CEO of the tech company Conch, is committed to living her most efficient life. She takes her ‘me time’ at 3:30 a.m. on the treadmill, power naps while waiting in line, schedules sex with her husband for when they are already changing clothes, and takes a men’s multivitamin because she refuses to participate in her own oppression.

But when she meets a young woman also named Shelley Stone who has the same exact scar on her shoulder, Shelley has to wonder: Is she finally buckling under all the pressure? Completely original, brainy, and laugh-out-loud funny, The Glitch introduces one of the most memorable characters in recent fiction and offers a riotous look into work, marriage, and motherhood in our absurd world.”

My Thoughts: The first thing to note about The Glitch is the fact that none of it will be remotely amusing unless you have spent time in the corporate world. If you have not done so, you just won’t get the story. Granted, Shelley will still be absurd in her mannerisms and thought processes, but anyone who has ever sat through any sort of corporate training will get many a chuckle about her pretentiousness whereas those who have not had the luxury will not get the absurdity.

The second thing to note about The Glitch is that it is a satire. Think Jane Austen but for the C-suite set. On the surface, nothing is amiss. Shelley seems perfectly normal in her musings, aspirations, and dedication to the various roles in her life. But just like in Austen’s novels, the truth is not what is on the surface but what remains unspoken throughout the story.

The best part about The Glitch is how it takes all the corporate self-help advice, the buzz words and trends, the various training exercises, and psychological expertise and destroys it in the name of common sense. It is a bit like playing corporate bingo with Shelley as a human bingo card that already has every space blacked out. There is something delightful in seeing every single trend about open concepts, empowering your staff, work-life balance, collaboration, etc. modeled by one character.

The corporate world is not the only place to feel the bite of Ms. Cohen’s wit. She also does something similar with raising children and the competitive area it has become. Through Shelley, Ms. Cohen’s portrayal of parenting in the wealthy and mostly white world is a far cry from children being ripped away from their parents and put into detention centers, and it has nothing in common with parents who cannot afford to feed their children or struggle making ends meet. Whereas her business style is amusing, her parenting style, and that of her husband, is so extreme that it is a whole lot of pretentious and a wee bit embarrassing.

Just as Jane Austen is not for everyone, The Glitch is a novel for a subset of readers. While I would like to think the satire is so obvious that anyone can enjoy it, I suspect that is not the case and that only those with experience in management and business will truly enjoy it. The thing is we need a novel like The Glitch. We need it to reevaluate our priorities and to recognize the ridiculousness of certain corporate measures. We need it because to take the corporate world seriously is to fuel your frustration at a system that seems to only benefit the top one percent. We need it to be able to laugh in a world where it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find things about which to laugh. Thankfully, no matter how crazy the world gets, there are certain things in parenting and in corporate America which will not change, and The Glitch is there the mock it all.

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