New York in the late 1950s. A city, and a world, on the cusp of change...
Maggie Gleason is looking toward the future. Part of a midcentury wave of young women seeking new lives in New York City, Maggie works for legendary Port Authority public relations maven Lee K. Jaffe--affectionately known to her loyal staff as Mrs. J. Having left Cleveland, Maggie has come to believe that she can write any story for herself that she imagines.
Pauline Moreau is running from the past--and a shameful secret. She arrives in the city on the brink of despair, saddled with a young daughter who needs more love, attention, and resources than Pauline can ever hope to provide. Seeing that Pauline needs a helping hand, Mrs. J tasks Maggie with befriending, and looking after, Pauline.
As the old New York gives way to the new, and Mrs. J's dream of the world's largest skyscraper begins to rise from the streets of lower Manhattan, Pauline--with the aid of Maggie and Mrs. J--also remakes herself. But when she reignites the scandal that drove her to New York, none of their lives will ever be the same. Maggie must question everything she thought she knew about love, work, ambition, and family to discover the truth about the enigmatic, strong woman she thought she had rescued.
Careers for Women is a masterful novel about the difficulties of building a career, a dream, or a life--and about the powerful small mercies of friendship and compassion.
In the late '50s, at the outset of the women's lib movement, a woman named Maggie Gleason goes to work for real-life figure Lee K. Jaffe, head of public relations for the New York Port Authority. She's an inspiration for the women who work for her, and when she offers the beautiful and brash Pauline Moreau a job, Pauline and Maggie become friends and Maggie comes to adore Pauline's developmentally-disabled daughter, Sonia. When Pauline goes missing, leaving Sonia behind, Maggie is desperate to get to the truth. As Maggie's investigation progresses, Pulitzer Prize finalist Scott (The Manikin) displays her considerable storytelling skills to chronicle the lives of the astonishingly resilient Pauline and her gentle, sweet-natured daughter Sonia, as well as Pauline's horrible treatment at the hands of the men in her life and her near constant struggle to provide for herself and Sonia. Sentimentality is mostly avoided, making the ultimate revelations even more tragic. Although Maggie mostly narrates, other dramas unfold throughout, such the poisoning of Native American land by an aluminum company called Alumacore, as well as Jaffe's role in selling the idea to build the twin towers of the World Trade Center. This finely drawn novel is memorable and rife with textured historical detail.