cover image The New Me

The New Me

Halle Butler. Penguin, $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-14-313360-5

Butler’s incisive latest (following Jillian) opens in winter in Chicago, where 30-year-old Millie is sweating inside her coat as she rides the crowded train to her temp position at the Lisa Hopper interior design showroom, where the uptight senior receptionist Karen calls her Maddie, and she gets paid $12 an hour to clip together mailers and answer the phone. Millie’s life is deeply stagnant—besides her temp position, she has one awful friend named Sarah, little to no social life, and a deep dependency on the crime show Forensic Files, which she watches nightly. It’s clear to Millie that something must change. When she receives an innocuous email from her temp agency, Millie mistakes it for an impending job offer, and throws herself into revamping her life. In short chapters, readers are treated to insights into the lives of the other women at Lisa Hopper, especially Karen, who has different plans for Millie’s future than what Millie is expecting. Though Millie’s mundane and self-destructive despondence sometimes feels all too familiar, Butler has nonetheless created an disquieting heroine with an indelible voice. Butler is a sharp and observant writer, who takes to task the tragicomedy of modern capitalism. [em]Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Mar.) [/em]