The older I get, the more I enjoy a good novel on workplaces and what goes on in them. I really enjoyed Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris when I read it a while ago. And the book jacket for my next book claimed this was a similar book:
A razor-sharp and deeply felt novel that illuminates the pivotal role of work in our lives—a riveting fusion of The Nest, Up in the Air, and Then We Came to the End that captures the emotional complexities of five HR colleagues trying to balance ambition, hope, and fear as their small company is buffeted by economic forces that threaten to upend them.
Just that paragraph alone had the book in my Wish List on Amazon (aka the place I put books I want to eventually read). So when I was looking for my next book and not wanting it to be another mystery or thriller, I went for This Could Hurt by Jilian Medoff, and it didn't disappoint.
This Could Hurt used a Human Resources department at a small research firm to tell the story of about five different archetypes you see in the business industry: the aging executive, the wanna be executive with an Ivy League pedigree, the stuck in a job he hates father, the woman in love with a co-worker, and the depressed gay man. Sure, all of these archetypes are pretty standard, but Medoff was able to bring something new into each of them. Medoff was able to bring both weaknesses and strengths into the characters to highlight that they were more similar than they let on, and they were all going through something that impacted their life at work.
Initally the story jumped between each of the characters as you saw how they all reacted to the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009 and its impact on them and their careers. Each were saved during multiple rounds of layoffs at their organization and were asked to take on more work, with some succeeding and some floundering at it for various reasons. Each character was shown to be oblivious to the struggles of the others and some more conniving than others about getting ahead.
But as the story moved on and the team dealt with adversity, it showed that different people were making moves behind the scenes to move ahead and stab people in the back than you would have expected. Those that made the blatant moves in line with their personality ended up not faring well, and all at the same time having a change in their heads as to what they believe is important in life, family. Those scenes in which a hard-driving Ivy League graduate learn that his goal at becoming the best having the best title is not enough in life really hit home for me, not because I chase titles (though I do think they are important), but because I know I would give up any title in the world just to spend more time with my family if they needed me.
**Quick Review: ** 4 out of 5 stars