Staff Review: The Beautiful Bureaucrat

hpThe Beautiful Bureaucrat

Helen Phillips

Henry Holt and Company

$25.00

Available 8/11/2015

This perfect little novel reads like a hallucination, or one of those weird dreams that you get just before waking. Or maybe like an Orwellian version of the movie “Office Space.”

A young couple leaves “the hinterlands” for an unnamed city, in search of employment. They both find work in a large concrete office building with no windows and limited points of entry. Neither of them is allowed to talk about their work. Her job is to cross-reference strings of numbers and letters, and then enter a date into “The Database”, but she is not to question what this work is or why it is necessary. Her only real job requirements are to have an eye for detail and good eyesight. As the stress of this mind-numbing drudgery slowly overwhelms her, she comes to the horrifying realization of what “Data Entry” actually is. She cannot even turn to her husband, as he seems to be home less and less.

The sense of menace and isolation that has been lurking under the surface since the first page becomes almost unbearable at this point. There is no way out, both literally and figuratively. She must make choices. So must he. And the choices they make, in a stroke of pure genius, turn this novel into a kind of life-and-death version of “The Gift of the Magi.” More than that, I am not giving away. You have to read it for yourself!

~ Lysbeth Abrams

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