Hello! Today I am very excited that it is my stop on the blog tour of the novel Impersonation, by Heidi Pitlor! This book is very different than most that I read and review on my blog, and although I didn’t enjoy it as much at the beginning, I’m very glad I read the book, and that I am participating in the tour!
Author: Heidi Pitlor
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: August 18th 2020
Genre: Adult fiction, contemporary
“By turns revealing, hilarious, dishy, and razor-sharp, Impersonation lives in that rarest of sweet spots: the propulsive page-turner for people with high literary standards.” —Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers
Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and a perpetually broke single mother to a young boy. Years of navigating her own and America’s cultural definitions of motherhood have left her a lapsed idealist. Lana Breban is a powerhouse lawyer, economist, and advocate for women’s rights with designs on elected office. She also has a son. Lana and her staff have decided she needs help softening her public image and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help.
When Allie lands the job as Lana’s ghostwriter, it seems as if things will finally go Allie’s way. At last, she thinks, there will be enough money not just to pay her bills but to actually buy a house. After years of working as a ghostwriter for other celebrities, Allie believes she 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 boyfriend decides to go on a road trip toward self-discovery. But as a writer for hire, Allie has gotten too used to being accommodating. At what point will she speak up for all that she deserves?
A satirical, incisive snapshot of how so many of us now live, Impersonation tells a timely, insightful, and bitingly funny story of ambition, motherhood, and class.
I received an arc from the publisher, Algonquin books, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion and my review.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting going into this book. To be honest, I didn’t really do a lot of research into the book. I read the synopsis, or really skimmed over it, and thought it looked really interesting. If I had taken more time, then I doubt that I would have wanted to read and the review. I’m glad that I didn’t take much time on it however; although I do not think that the book was perfect for me, I am very glad that I was given the chance to read an advance reader copy of it.
The book follows Allie Lang, a professional ghostwriter and single mother who is struggling with making enough money to support her family. At the beginning of the book, Allie gets a job writing a memoir for a celebrity, but that falls through due to a scandal unrelated to her. After that, she soon gets another job, writing a memoir for Lana Breban, a feminist and political activist who has set her sights on running for office. She also is a mother to a young boy. It is decided that her image needs softening, so a memoir about her life as a mother is what is chosen to do the job.
Allie is very excited, however Lana isn’t the most cooperative with the book, and often, if unintentionally, leaves Allie struggling to find material for the book. Lana’s job keeps her on her feet, and soon comes to require too much of Allie’s time.
I felt that the subplot that took place at the beginning of the book with the celebrity memoir that falls through was good, and very interesting. However, because of it we didn’t get introduced to Lana until much later in the novel. I’m not sure how that could have been done differently, but I was struggling to find the similarities between the book I was reading and the synopsis that I’d read for a good chunk of the book.
The plot, however, even if it wasn’t what I expected it to be was interesting enough. The ending was gripping, and towards the end of the book I grew to like Lana’s character more and more.
When we were first introduced to her, however, I wasn’t a fan. The back of the copy I was provided said in big, bold letters, “together they make the perfect feminist mother.”
For most of the time I was reading the book, I was convinced that they really didn’t. Lana didn’t seem to care enough about the smaller things, and while she was aiming high and doing her best, she often wasn’t aware of the people right around her, and didn’t give them enough time. Lana is supposed to be coming out with a memoir about her being a mother, however she really doesn’t parent much at all.
I had to wonder what it would be like for her son. His mom is a pretty big deal, but she’s often not around. I can only imagine that if she could barely spend time with Allie, she would spend next to nothing with her son.
Allie, on the other hand is an amazing mother doing her best. She struggles with money, and struggles with finding childcare, but she tries so hard to give her son Cass the best life possible, and to raise him as an empathetic boy.
I do have to say, while reading this book I thought a lot about what it would be like to be a ghostwriter. I love writing, and someday want to be an author. It makes me really nervous for people to read my writing, even blog posts, but having no one know that you wrote something, a whole book even? And seeing someone else get credit for writing it? I think it would be weird, and I don’t know if I personally could get used to it.
I also would never be able to keep it a secret from everyone, and I think about Allie, who had ghost written many novels, and her mother, who is constantly guessing who Allie’s writing for, and is constantly pressuring her to tell her. Just her, and only her, she says.
The book also takes place before and during the 2016 election. I was a lot younger when that happened, only ten, but I remember it so clearly. I remember it so, so clearly.
Reading about how Allie reacts to things happening, reading about Allie reading the news, and knowing the outcome of the presidential election, well, it’s like having a whole other perspective.
Jimmie, Allie’s landlord, neighbor, and sort of friend is a Trump supporter, and she struggles with handling that. The election night, the days, weeks and months coming up to it, she tries to contain her anger and disgust about what is going on.
Allie’s relationship with her parents is very complicated, but is written in a way that feels entirely realistic. Her mother and stepfather Ed really love her, but don’t see how they are often very judgmental. Allie wants to have a good relationship with them, especially with her mother, but feels like they are constantly judging her on how she’s living her life, and how she is raising her son.
But Allie, through all of this preservers, and continues, and keeps going with her life. She never gives up, and learns to push harder for what she needs. Allie’s development throughout the book is one of my favorite aspects, and I grew to really admire her character.
Heidi Pitlor is the author of the novels The Birthdays and The Daylight Marriage, which was optioned for film. Her third novel, Impersonation, will come out on August 18, 2020. A former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, she has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007. She is also the editorial director of the literary studio, Plympton. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Lit Hub, Ploughshares, The Huffington Post, and elsewhere. She lives outside Boston.
I did not start out loving this book at all. I really didn’t like it. But the plot intruiged me from the beginning, and I wanted to know how it all ended. I’m so glad that I kept up with it, because it turned out to be a really remarkable novel.
I loved watching as Allie Lang overcame each obstacle in her life, and how she really evolved as a character and progressed as a human being.
To who? This is an amazing book, however, I do think that it would be much better for an adult reader than a younger one. It is a very important book, and one that I recommend to any older reader looking for a novel about feminism, perseverance, and the ups and downs of being a single parent struggling with money.