Self Care

Leigh Stein. Penguin, $16 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-14-313519-7
In this sharp satire, Stein (The Fallback Plan) revels in wellness culture gone toxic. Devin Avery and Maren Gelb are cofounders of Richual, a Goop-like lifestyle company seeking to “catalyze women to be global changemakers through the simple act of self-care.” (That the company doesn’t have a maternity leave policy is a particularly juicy irony.) Richual uses sponsored content, paid influencers, confessional blog postings, and merchandise like “Believe Victims” beach towels to attract and monetize its user base. Devin, rich and devoted to a strenuous dietary and beauty regimen, is the face of the company, while Maren, who got her start working for a nonprofit feminist organization and has a mountain of student loan debt, ensures Richual runs “like a well-moisturized machine.” That machine hits a rough patch after a woman publishes an essay about the problematic sexual predilections of Evan, a former Bachelorette contestant and prominent male investor in Richual, threatening the company’s feminist bona fides and driving a wedge between its cofounders. The plot flies by, but the real appeal lies in Stein’s merciless skewering of startup culture, bloviating entrepreneurs, fatuous trends, and woker-than-thou internet denizens, a vanity fair of 20-somethings who are at once conspicuously privileged yet vulnerable, earnest yet hypocritical, navel-gazing yet engaged, independent-minded yet tribal. Stein’s sharp writing separates her from the pack in this exquisite, Machiavellian morality tale about the ethics of looking out for oneself. Agent: Erin Hosier, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (July)
Reviewed on : 03/20/2020
Release date: 06/30/2020
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-525-50686-7
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