Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: The Balance Project

By Melissa Amster

If you think I have it all together. I guess I'm a really good actress and should be making an Oscar acceptance speech right about now. The fact of the matter is, as I said in my Balance Project interview with Susie Schall last autumn: "Having it all is overrated. Something has to give in some area of life." I also mentioned wishing that Mary Poppins would come over and snap her fingers so that my home would be organized. However, it's not just my home. My inboxes for my various e-mail accounts are overflowing and I can barely stay focused unless I have a to-do list or send myself constant reminders. So while it may look like I can balance a full-time job, three kids, and a book blog, I am just doing well at making it look easier than it truly is. For that reason alone, I could relate to The Balance Project and even sympathize with Katherine, who was made to be an antagonist at times.

Loyal assistant Lucy Cooper works for Katherine Whitney, who seems to have it all: a high-powered job at a multi-billion-dollar health and wellness lifestyle company, a successful husband, and two adorable daughters. Now, with the release of her book on work-life balance, Katherine has become a media darling and a hero to working women everywhere. In reality, though, Katherine’s life is starting to fall apart, and Lucy is the one holding it all together, causing her own life—and relationship with her boyfriend Nick—to suffer. When Katherine does something unthinkable to Lucy, Lucy must decide whether to change Katherine’s life forever or continue being her main champion. Her choice will affect the trajectory of both of their lives and lead to opportunities neither one could have imagined. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Initially, The Balance Project felt like the 2015 version of The Devil Wears Prada, in which a 20-something woman becomes an assistant to a demanding boss and ends up managing their life outside of anything career-related (such as picking up their dry cleaning, babysitting, etc.). Unlike Andrea, who is trying to get her foot in the door to a better career and doesn't hide her distaste for Miranda, Lucy is happy to work for Katherine and has a friendly working connection with her. She likes feeling needed and doesn't consider her own career until other people push her to see otherwise. I could relate to Lucy on that end, in terms of feeling loyal toward her boss instead of getting a job in her career field.

One might think that finding balance is only for women with children. They would be wrong. Ever since reading The Balance Project, I've been encouraging my friends without kids to participate in Susie's interview series. The story allows the reader to appreciate the different facets of finding balance, whether or not someone has kids. Just like for Andrea in The Devil Wears Prada, Lucy's job takes a toll on her personal life, including her relationships with her family, friends, and especially her boyfriend. While the story wraps up neatly, there are a lot of twists and surprises along the way that kept me on my toes and made me nervous for Lucy at each turn of the page. I even got teary-eyed at the end.

Utterly compelling and impossible to put down, The Balance Project speaks volumes about how important it is for women at any stage of life to find realistic and meaningful balance. I hope every woman has a chance to read it and discusses the questions in the back of the book with their friends and/or book club.

Just like Susie did in her interview, I had some fun casting the movie version:
Lucy: Anna Kendrick
Katherine: Naomi Watts
Nick: Chris Pratt
Theo: Mike O'Malley
Ava: Emma Stone

Thanks to BookSparks PR for the book in exchange for an honest review (and blurb). 

Enter to win a copy of THE BALANCE PROJECT, along with an iPad mini and case. 


Janine said...

Great review. This book sounds really good.

Unknown said...

I can't wait to read this!

Connie said...

When I first started reading your review, Melissa, I also thought that this sounded like another "Devil Wears Prada." However, the balance of one's life is precisely what we all - women and men - need to find to enable us to find true contentment with our lives. Great review of what sounds like a terrific novel. I am looking forward to reading it.

Cher B said...

Life balance is something everyone struggles with, a struggle which evolves over your lifetime. Looking forward to reading this novel!
I also wanted to say that I am amazed by all you do in your life and the enthusiasm and love for reading and for fellow readers that you bring to this blog. Years ago, when I had just started following your blog thanks to Sarah Pekkanen, I contacted you with a question. I had read a great book a few years earlier and when I wanted to reread it, couldn't remember the title. I briefly described the plot and asked if you had any ideas and you were generous enough to take the time to respond with several suggestions that gave me, a stranger, new search options. Sadly, I never have found that book which is why I now use Goodreads to keep track, but I found something better. I found a fantastic blogger on a team of great bloggers that share my love for reading. Thanks for your kindness and enthusiasm!

Liz Parker said...

Sounds interesting. Found you on Carole's linky :).