by Adelle Waldman
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Pub Date 05 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 29 Feb 2024
From the best-selling author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. comes a sharp and funny tale of work in our time.
Adelle Waldman’s hit debut novel earned her the title of “this generation’s Jane Austen” (Boston Globe). In Help Wanted, Waldman brings her unparalleled wit and knack for social observation to the world of work. At a big-box store in a small town in upstate New York, the members of Team Movement clock in every day at 3:55 AM. Under the eyes of a self-absorbed and barely competent boss, they empty the day’s truck of merchandise, stock the shelves, and scatter before customers arrive. When a golden opportunity for a promotion presents itself, the diverse members of Movement—among them a comedy-obsessed oddball who acts half his age, a young woman clinging to her “cool kid” status from high school, a college football hopeful trying to find a new path—band together and set a just-so-crazy-it-might-work plot in motion. A darkly comic workplace caper that explores the aches and uses of solidarity, Help Wanted is a deeply humane portrait of people trying, against increasingly long odds, to make a living.
About the Author: Adelle Waldman is the best-selling author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., which was named a best book of the year by the New Yorker, the Economist, NPR, Elle, and many others. Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications.
"Help Wanted is like a great nineteenth-century novel about now, at once an effervescent workplace comedy and a profoundly human exploration of the psychic toll exacted by the labor market. The characters are so richly drawn—so full, under all their defenses, of the desire to be loved—that even the annoying ones will win your heart. When the book came to an end, I felt bereft. Adelle Waldman is a master." - Elif Batuman, author of Either/Or
"In Help Wanted, the tragic heroes of the gig economy, full of dreams and sob stories and what-if scenarios, concoct a plot to better their lives, failing to see that late capitalism and office politics have a very different ending in store for them. Yet even as the frustrations mount and the plot goes sideways, hope never dies. Adelle Waldman delivers both a brilliant diagnosis and a moving account of retail workers hidden in plain sight all around us whose full humanity has simply never been so richly displayed or touchingly rendered." - Joshua Ferris, author of A Calling for Charlie Barnes
"Help Wanted is a serious moral inquiry, through the medium of fiction, into the lives of a group of people who work in a big-box store in an American town that has seen better days. It’s a book about work; about the retail industry in the age of Amazon; and about the effects of late capitalism on human relations. It is also hard to put down. This book should be assigned in business schools, but it won’t be; the world it depicts is not the one dreamt of in their philosophy." - Keith Gessen, author of Raising Raffi
"What a gorgeous and ingenious and heartfelt work Help Wanted is!" - Michelle Orange, author of Pure Flame
"I can’t think of a book more necessary. Adelle Waldman takes us into the universe of American labor with generosity and compassion. It has been a while since workers have been portrayed through the lens of a novelist with such insight and attention to the details of service industry life. Simply enthralling." - Gary Shteyngart, author of Our Country Friends
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Average rating from 21 members
My mother has worked in an environment like the one detailed in Help Wanted for the past 30 years of her life. When I was a teen -- in the summer between years of college -- I came on board and worked in the warehouse. I barely lasted those 3 precarious months. The environment was brutal, the personalities clashing, with capitalism weighing heavy on each and every employee.
Adelle Waldman expertly depicts working the early morning shift (read: start time of 4am) at a big box store, and all of the conflicting personalities, experiences, and expectations inherent within. This book was jaw dropping, frustrating, and screech-worthy -- I absolutely lapped it up.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to have read this delicious work, but leave it so confounded by the pervasive and cyclical nature of capitalism. Thank you to both the publisher and Waldman for their hard work on making this book a reality.
I’ve been waiting years for Adelle Waldman’s follow-up to The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, and this did not disappoint. While it’s quite different in structure and theme, the writing style is so distinct and familiar and I was so happy to have it back in my life. Each character is so well drawn and specific that I was never disappointed in a perspective switch, which I think that be a risk in a multi-POV novel like this. It’s funny but never mean, and I never felt like it was anything but empathetic toward its characters, even if they made poor choices or behaved badly. Highly recommended for any fellow fans of Waldman or the TV show Superstore!
I don't know if I have the words to do this book justice, so I'll start with a little anecdote...
I recently recommended a book to a colleague of mine. (It's not important what the book was.) He read half of it, returned it to me, and said, "This is the best possible example of a book about ordinary people doing ordinary things, but I hate books about ordinary people doing ordinary things. Why would I want to read about someone just like me?"
This was the moment that I realized my absolute favorite genre of book is "Ordinary People Doing Ordinary Things." I love when an author is able to capture the human experience in a way that feels deeply relatable and authentic. And Help Wanted is one of the best examples of this type of book that I have ever read.
In the same breath, I don't know how to recommend this book to anyone. What a challenge it is to explain that a fictional book about a logistics team for a Target-like superstore is one of my favorite books I've read this year (possibly ever). So far, when I've tried to do just that, the typical response is, "Ugh, what? That sounds so boring." But I think that's the beauty of it. Because life can be so mundane, so frustrating, so hard. And this book shows that amidst all that mundanity exist these tremendously complicated human beings with their specific hopes and dreams and individual histories and identities. I was rooting for so many of them, knowing that by rooting for one, I was simultaneously betting against the others.
By the last 50 pages of the book, I was intentionally slowing down my reading so I could savor the experience. I wasn't ready to be done with these characters. I found it tremendously comforting to read about their days, about their fictional lives. I am truly looking forward to reading Waldman's debut novel soon, as well as anything she may publish in the future.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and W. W. Norton for the e-ARC of this book. I have every intention of purchasing a physical copy when it is released next year.