Cover Image: Help Wanted

Help Wanted

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DNF at 20%. Help Wanted is about the team working logistics at a big box store - unloading the trucks and getting the goods out on the floor. Unfortunately the execution just didn’t work for me and instead of feeling drawn in by the characters I just felt bored. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the free ebook and audiobook to review.

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At a large retailer in New York, the staff responsible for logistics is used to routine and staying in their lanes. But then the store manager decides to leave his position, opening up his job. The back of the store staff does not get along with their boss, so they come up with a scheme to get her the store manager job. If they can succeed, they will not only be largely free of their boss, but one of them may have the opportunity to be promoted to her job. As they pursue this unlikely mission, each reflects on their current situation and whether they want something different from their job ... and their life.

With a well-crafted story and strong characters, this was a perceptive novel that explores timely themes.

Highly recommended.

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For everyone who has worked retail, restaurants, or hospitality - this one’s for you. Adelle Waldman captures the unique micro-culture of retail with her characters working at Town Square (a fictional big box store). There is a larger cast of characters, but Waldman manages to make them stand apart with her writing. I was gripped into the story from the beginning, invested in the happenings of the store and the hierarchy of change happening in the story.

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Ever wonder what life is like for those working in a box store a living. This story gives a view in the life's of quite a cast of characters from various background who make up the unload crew or known as the Movement Group who work at Town Square store a second-tier box store. The majority of the group have various struggles whether financially or other life struggles along with the atmosphere of working together. But now an opportunity has a risen where one of the groups may get to move up into a management position which would be life changing. But sometimes a group understands the benefits of working as a group. I struggled with the start of this book but desire to find out who gets the promotion kept me reading it to the end. Give it a read and see what you think.

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It's been 11 years since Adelle Waldman's breakout debut The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. Majorly lauded and received with much critical fanfare, it was a concise, sharply written novel about a well-to-do literary success of a man who can't seem to keep a relationship and is majorly obsessed with his status in the world.

Imagine the surprise then, when after over a decade, Waldman's next book was based around a cast of characters working the early morning receiving shift at a big box store in a post-Amazon economy. With a wild 180 turn, Waldman writes carefully about the pains of working a job with an irregular schedule, unreliable hours, and dismal pay, with no hope of every being repaid for going above and beyond and certainly not in your wildest dreams receiving benefits and a full 40 hours for the week. The perspective of the book floats somewhat listlessly between perspectives, from the grunt workers to the store managers, all laying out the politics of working this job. As a person who has worked retail for a number of years, the details of Waldman's stories felt painfully real. A modern workplace novel for the times we live in, many will find Help Wanted an eye-opener into the lives of the working class.

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In Help Wanted, Adele Waldman offers readers a poignant and illuminating glimpse into the lives of hourly wage workers, set against the backdrop of the early morning hustle and bustle of a grocery store. While initially poised as a potentially comedic narrative, the novel delves deeper, unraveling the hidden hardships and aspirations of its characters with heartfelt sincerity.

At the heart of the story lies the impending departure of Big Will, the affable yet enigmatic store manager, and the subsequent quest of the workers to ensure their despised department manager assumes the vacant position. Once her spot is open, a position within their department will be open that each characters wants. As each character vies for the coveted role, they unveil poignant tales of personal struggles and resilience, shedding light on the myriad challenges faced by those toiling in the trenches of the retail industry.

Waldman's narrative is at its strongest when plumbing the depths of her characters' inner lives, offering readers a raw and unvarnished portrayal of the often-overlooked struggles of hourly workers. Through their disparate voices, she crafts a multifaceted tapestry of humanity, highlighting the resilience and dignity inherent in the face of adversity.

However, despite its noble intentions, Help Wanted occasionally falters in its execution. While the novel adeptly captures the struggles of its characters, it occasionally veers into melodrama, sacrificing narrative nuance for heightened emotional impact. Additionally, the pacing can feel uneven at times, detracting from the overall cohesion of the story.

Overall, Help Wanted emerges as a commendable exploration of the challenges and triumphs of the working class, offering readers a poignant reminder of the resilience and dignity inherent in the face of adversity. While it may not deliver the anticipated comedic relief, its earnest portrayal of human struggle earns it a respectable three-star rating, making it a worthwhile addition to the literary landscape.

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Help Wanted is a fun, quick read that is so relatable about the staff of a warehouse retailer (I kept picturing Costco!) and the drama and politics of the workplace. Although it's an easy read, it definitely raises a lot of issues that are very difficult in today's society and has plenty to think about. I enjoyed it!

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A tender and wise encapsulation of what it is like to exist within a big box store. I found the characters to be likable and extremely well developed. A perfect book about ordinary people doing ordinary things. I truly love slice-of-life novels and this one fully delivers with perfect doses of comedy and drama.

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Big Will has been working for Town Square for years. He now runs the store in a small town that once had a busy factory, and since that factory closed, the town has been slowly dying. After his time there, he is finally about to get a promotion, moved to manage a store in a better town, a stepping stone to a district manager, and it’s time for him to choose his replacement.

Meredith has recently taken over the Movement team. Movement is the early morning folks who come to the store in the dark, unload the truck, and stock the shelves before the store opens. It’s the team that no one wants to lead, partly for the hours and partly because it’s a difficult job. But Meredith moved there from the sales floor, thinking (rightly) that those in power would see it as her becoming a more well-rounded manager than the others in the store and fast-tracking her for a promotion.

Big Will was impressed with Meredith’s choice to go to Movement. He sees her ambition and intensity, and he’s talked her up to corporate to take over in his place. At the time, he’d thought of himself as a mentor, encouraging her to take risks as a leader and help the Movement team become more successful. Instead, he sees her talking down to the team and always putting her own needs before the team. He starts to wonder if he’s made a mistake in backing her, but corporate is sending a team to do interviews of her team before they make the final decision of who will get the store manager job. Those interviews will probably give them a better idea of what she’s like as a manager than anything he could tell them.

But what he doesn’t know is that there is a group inside of Movement who knows everything that’s going on in the store, and they want to make sure things break their way. Their plan is to get Meredith promoted, so she’s not working over them anymore. Then the head of their team, Little Will, can get promoted to her job, and one of them can take over for Little Will. That would mean, for that lucky lottery winner, full time hours and benefits, neither of which they can get as part-timers.

But who gets the job? It is the woman who’s been there the longest and knows softlines inside and out? Is it one of the younger, more energetic workers? Is it one of the guys who knows the warehouse better than anyone else? They all have skills. They all want more hours. They all want a stable job with benefits, which is hard to find in their small town. But to get Meredith out of their hair, they’re going to have to work together and have some hope that their future could be brighter than their present.

Anyone who has worked retail, particularly at a big box store, will recognize the internal politics of Help Wanted. There are the cliquishness of the different teams, the struggle for more hours, the never-ending push to do more with fewer workers, the repetition, the uniforms, the friendships, the corporate fear of unions.

Author Adelle Waldman got all those details right, to the point where it may have kicked up a little PTSD for me thinking about those days I spent in red shirts and khaki pants. But more than that, she understood the relationships that get built in those back rooms. This whip-smart novel exposes more about the politics of big box stores than six months’ experience working there. It’s a fascinating look at the modern workplace, and the modern work force, and it blends humanity with compassion and humor. Help Wanted is a powerhouse of a novel, one that puts all the worst and best of our working selves on display. And it tells an amazing story to boot.

Egalleys for Help Wanted were provided by W. W. Norton & Company through NetGalley, with many thanks.

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Many thanks to NetGalley and WW Norton & Company for the opportunity to read the new book by Adelle Waldman - 4.5 stars!

At a big-box store in a small, depressed town in Upstate NY, the crew of Team Movement start their day before 4:00 AM to unload trucks and get merchandise out on the floor., leaving before the first customers appear. When an opportunity for a promotion comes up, the team decide to put a plan in motion to get their boss promoted to store manager, leaving her spot open for one of them.

I really liked this book and was instantly drawn into all these characters and their stories. The setting is a Target-like store in the age of Amazon, in a town where big business has closed and there are very few job opportunities. It's full of heart, dark humor, and will cause you to think about all those people behind the scenes that make our lives better. I felt for these characters - trying to better their lives in tough situations, not always making the best of decisions.

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I did really love all of the various characters and their stories, and this gave me flashes to the Walmart I've grown up going to in the Catskills. It has moments where I could not totally relate and also just felt I hated what was happening.

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The workplace has been fodder for some excellent novels, such as Joshua Ferris’s “Then We Came to the End” and Stewart O’Nan’s “Last Night at the Lobster.” Adele Waldman, the author of “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P,” which was universally praised by reviewers and included on many “best of” lists, joins the pantheon of workplace fiction writers with “Help Wanted.” “Help Wanted” is a funny, yet urgent peek into the aspirations and disappointments of the members of the Movement, the employees of a fictional big box store who are responsible for unloading the trucks that arrive before dawn from the distribution center and placing the merchandise on the store’s shelves before the sun rises.

Fictional Potterstown, New York, the setting for Waldman’s novel, has not recovered from the departure of IBM, its largest employer, but it has become a popular summer destination “for certain type of city person (the kind who eschewed — or was priced out of — the Hamptons).” Town Square Store offers these vacationers the goods that they may need while sequestered in their airbnbs. Ironically, the mass-produced knockoffs of trendy, boutique type items which Town Square Store offers “were cheap only to people who shopped at actual boutiques.” The people who worked at Town Square shopped at Walmart.

The members of Movement are the bottom of the store’s pecking order because it was not “customer-facing.” It was where HR “put people whose social skills were . . . ‘Not ready for prime time.’” They were called “roaches” by the other employees because they descended on the store in the dark of night and scattered in the morning when the customers arrived. Yet, the “diversity of race, gender, and ethnicity” of the Movement staff “would have made the headmaster of a private school bug-eyed with envy,” and these employees were united in their quest for regular schedules and more hours that would give them benefits, such as health insurance and tuition assistance. When Big Will, the 29 year old store manager, announces that he is being transferred to a more prestigious store in Connecticut, his underlings conspire to promote the advancement of those that they would most like to be their direct supervisor and plot their own advancement.

Waldman spent six months at a big box store unloading trucks full of boxes. She has used this experience to write an endearing portrait of the struggles and dreams of low wage workers.

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I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. I appreciated how the novel was based around the day to day lives of the employees of a big retail store. As a previous retail worker, I associated with the tasks, relationships and employees in the story. I found the novel to portray the retail environment and its struggle very accurate. Unfortunately no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t fully invest in it. Very grateful for the opportunity to read this ARC.

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In her deceptively simple second book, Adelle Waldman takes on the contemporary U.S. environment for low-paid workers. Set in the logistics department (called Movement) of a big box store that is part of a chain described as a level above Walmart, and set in a declining city in New York State, the story focuses on nine workers who are employed for an early morning shift on a part-time basis for low pay and with no benefits. When the store's manager is promoted to manage a store in a more lucrative market in Connecticut, the workers in Movement begin to speculate on who might be promoted, hoping it won't be Meredith who oversees them. They bond together to try to influence the outcome. In many ways, the corporate culture is progressive: regular employees are trained and treated comparatively well, discrimination, sexual harassment, and other serious problems that arise in the workplace, including managerial incompetence, are dealt with swiftly, and management seeks to develop employees and promote from within. But Movement employs people without much education or prospects who struggle with typical problems such as paying rent, food security, child care, transportation, and the like, with resulting familial tensions. The book is not laden with swear words (although there are a few). Its prose is not particularly lyrical. Yet, Waldman uses her style to great advantage and tells a complex tale of what it takes for a wide swath of our population to eke out a living while maintaining dignity and camaraderie. Help Wanted will resonate with many readers.

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This book seemed like something I would like and I did want to like it. The author just made it too much of a slog. The writing seemed really out of touch with the actual characters. Something about it just screamed disingenuous.

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The topic of this book is fascinating and Waldman does a great of capturing many of the horrors of modern day capitalism and its impact on working class people. The writing is generally strong (not surprising for Waldman) and the nuances she captures at this big box store a rung or two higher than Walmart is extremely well done. However, it was hard to get into the story, as I had a difficult time keeping track of the details of each character's situation (there were many with MANY details) and the plot was a bit one note. So, for me, this book was much more successful in terms of vibes than in terms of the narrative work I was looking for.

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The work space in this story unleashes all vignettes that working in America fosters. It’s that mind numbing,watch the clock, need to decompress exsistance you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Yet here there is that sense of brothers in arms that got soldiers through and made heroes. It’s moments of humor shine and give respite to the reader who counts themselves lucky they don’t have a supervisor as ill equipped as the one in charge here. A joy to read.

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Waldman does an excellent job of crafting the insular little world of the big-box store warehouse, creating an environment where it's easy for the reader to understand why the stakes seem so high for these characters. And as someone who grew up in northern New York, I felt like she really captured something profound about how life feels in a certain kind of economically struggling upstate town that's been abandoned by the major employer that kept it afloat for decades.

This is one of those books that is deceptively straightforward on the surface, but has a lot going on underneath.

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I really enjoyed the scope of this novel.. For a non-mystery, there was an awful lot of suspense and tension. I was shocked at how invested I was in the fate of the characters. It organically incorporated social issues and systemic inequality in a way that never felt forced. The stakes are so high and it illuminates how so many individuals struggle with lower income jobs in economically depressed areas. At times it's hard to keep track of all of the characters, but ultimately you'll be endeared to them all.

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I just could not get into this one. I don't know if it is because I have no life experience that made it relatable or what, but I could not connect to the characters and it felt like a lot of nothing was happening on page after page... I think I was just the wrong reader for this book.

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