In this novel, a young woman with a PhD from an Ivy League university filed for bankruptcy after being unable to find an academic job with living wage. She and her husband work full-time, with her having multiple jobs for which she is overqualified, but it was not enough to cover all the debts and living cost of raising two young children.
The author describes the struggle that the main character has just to get through the day, day after day. In the hands of a less talented writer, the readers would find a pitiful character. But here, you will find instead someone you can relate to and root for. The character doesn’t feel entitled; she is very much aware of her privileges. With all the problems she has, she is conscious of those she doesn’t have because she is a highly educated white woman with access to people with money.
It is a tale of the physical, mental, and financial tolls suffered by the main character, who remains unnamed until the last chapter. But in between the lines, you can also find a reflection on what it means to live in a society designed to have some of its best talents squandered.
Strong is a novelist who teaches writing at Columbia University.
By Magfirah Dahlan