Piece of Work
Grand Central Publishing (2008)
Reviewed by Danielle Feleciano for Reader Views (2/08)
In “Piece of Work,” Laura Zigman somehow manages to write a chic-lit genre book that is completely anti-chic lit. This book is not a light and fluffy read. It does not have a load of superficial characters who are so enamored with themselves you just can’t keep reading. Rather, this is a book with real people as the characters. A couple, Julia and Peter, suddenly lose all of their stability when Peter is laid off of his job. After months of unemployment on his end, Julia realizes she has to leave her current life as a stay-at-home mom and return to her past life as a celebrity publicist.
Julia and Peter both struggle with the same insecurities most of us do. He loses the sense of identity that comes with being the main financial support to his family. She goes back and forth with questioning her ability to be a good mom and wife and whether she’s doing the right thing going back to work. And once she goes back to work, she questions her ability to do that job as well.
We get glimpses into their relationship with Julia’s parents; a relationship which seems to have been strained in the past but has been mended with the birth of a grandchild. Those and other characters do fall flat and could have been better developed. The moms at the preschool and Julia’s relationship with Patricia and Lisa all could have given more meat to the story.
Julia is desperate to work and takes the only thing she can find in her field, which is as a celebrity publicist to has-beens who don’t even realize they are has-beens. Her boss is a selfish jerk who does everything he can to sabotage Julia’s client, Mary Ford. Ms. Ford may deserve the sabotage for the pain and suffering she puts everyone through, but Ms. Zigman allows just enough vulnerability to show through that we find ourselves slowly rooting for Mary’s success.
The end of “Piece of Work” did seem a bit far-fetched and a bit too neatly tied up, but that’s the beauty of fiction. Julia, Peter, and even Mary have been through enough. They all deserved to have a happy ending, even if it doesn’t last forever.