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A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2015
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by Time Out, Bustle, The Atlantic, Electric Literature, Kobo, Kirkus and more...
"Riveting... thrillerlike...drolly surreal...Ultimately, The Beautiful Bureaucrat succeeds because it isn't afraid to ask the deepest questions." The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice
"A joyride..." -Karen Russell
NAMED A MUST READ OF THE SUMMER by the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Bustle, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, HelloGiggles and more...
A young wife's new job pits her against the unfeeling machinations of the universe in a first novel Ursula K. Le Guin hails as "funny, sad, scary, beautiful. I love it."
In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. After a long period of joblessness, she's not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings-the office's scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality, the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.
As other strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine's work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her. She realizes that in order to save those she holds most dear, she must penetrate an institution whose tentacles seem to extend to every corner of the city and beyond. Both chilling and poignant, The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a novel of rare restraint and imagination. With it, Helen Phillips enters the company of Murakami, Bender, and Atwood as she twists the world we know and shows it back to us full of meaning and wonder-luminous and new.
Phillips's (And Yet They Were Happy) novel incisively depicts the corporate hell in which young drones toil in faceless buildings, sorting meaningless files according to inscrutable policies. Josephine Anne Newbury takes a data-entry job and finds she can't quite leave her work at the office; her husband and friends suddenly seem less real than Room 9997, where Josephine compiles a mysterious and massive database that seems to dictate reality itself, while warding off Trishiffany, her workplace "frenemy from the so-called Department of Processing Errors. Discovering that she can't quit the rules don't allow it and realizing that she never caught her direct superior's name, Josephine wonders if she's losing her mind, fears she's somehow pregnant by data, then becomes convinced of her husband's imminent demise because a file contains the date of his death. In fact, things are much worse than Josephine suspects. When even the smallest act requires allocation to the appropriate department and red tape dictates the limits of love, the life of a bureaucrat proves to be full of danger. Phillips's black comedy of white-collar life doesn't reinvent the meaning of the word Kafkaesque, and to its credit, it doesn't try. The novel has enough horror and mordant humor to carry the reader effortlessly through its punchy send-up of entry-level institutionalization.