Not Working by Lisa Owens
Best for: Anyone looking for a quick read that is linear but written in a slightly different style.
In a nutshell: Claire has quit her job without another lined up, in an effort to find something she wants to do.
“When I had a job, I used to fantasize about what I’d do if I didn’t have to work anymore. Go to the gym every day, get really fit, train for a marathon perhaps. Finish Ulysses, and read Moby Dick and one of the big Russian guys. Get to grips with the economy, also modern art.”
“You know, not everyone can be a hero, or live the dream — we just need to contribute what we can. Pull our weight, earn a living. There’s no shame in that.”
Why I chose it: The paperback cover (in the UK at least) is striking and made me pick it up. Then I read the back and knew I had to read it.
Have you ever read the first chapter or so of a book and seriously wonder if it’s your own memoir? That is to say, have you ever related so hard to the circumstances in a novel that you’re slightly bummed because now you can’t turn your own story into a novel because you’ll be sued for copywrite? That’s kind of how I feel about this book.
Claire has quit her job. She doesn’t enjoy her work, and wants to take time to actually sort out what she wants to do. She has savings, and has a mortgage on a flat with her boyfriend (a doctor trainee), so she’s obviously in a position to do this. But she doesn’t know where to start. She doesn’t have an obvious passion, or any real sense of what she wants to be doing with her life. She has some skeptical friends (most of them seem unsupportive – something I couldn’t relate to), and a mother who isn’t speaking to her.
The story is presented across a few chapters, but nearly every few paragraphs has a little sub-heading. It’s an interesting device making the book read more like a diary. It’s a convention that I think is challenging to do well, but Ms. Owens pulls it off well.
I enjoyed Claire’s comments and attitude and flaws because I could see myself in much of her. I, too, quit my job earlier this year. It was a necessity — we moved across the world — but I wanted to do it because it isn’t a field I wanted to be in. And I’m still sort-of working in that field (less than full-time), and still haven’t been able to sort out what I’m going to do long-term. I’m lucky enough that we can afford me not working full-time at my previous salary, and it does feel a bit indulgent to be able to go to the gym at 10 AM on a Monday because I don’t have to have my butt in an office chair at 8 AM. So reading someone who is in a somewhat similar position to me was almost cathartic.
But even if I couldn’t relate so hard, I still think I would have highly enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a fairly quick read that still has some heft in terms of the relationships explored within, I think you’ll enjoy this one.