Tracy Flick Can’t Win

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A reunion (long overdue) with Tracy Flick, heroine from the 1998 novel “Election”, and the character played so compellingly by Reese Witherspoon in the film adaptation.

Perhaps less darkly comic and even more poignant and affecting in its satiricism, this latest installment re-introduces us to Tracy, now in her mid-forties, a compassionate woman as deeply ambitious, conscientious and misunderstood as the high-school student she was so many years ago.

Currently an Assistant Principal, with the announcement of the retirement of her boss, Tracy is on the cusp of achieving the leadership position she knows in her heart to be her just and fully-earned dues.

But Destiny, it seems, has other plans (and don’t get me started on Justice!)- for Tracy as well as the long list of characters accompanying her on this literary journey.

Into a story told by so many first-person POVs that I lost count, the author blends a steady stream of short and deeply-personal vignettes, papering an oddly-coherent collage of vivid impressions coloring the world that Tracy, along with her colleagues and neighbors, inhabit in the beige middle-class suburbia that is Green Meadow, New Jersey.

With thematic elements spanning the politics of high-school academia, small-town athletics, heroes and underdogs, middle-aged angst, loves, losses and betrayals – all presenting a fascinating backdrop to Tracy’s own story – this book is an achingly-tender look at a now middle-aged woman (an only partially-self-aware abuse survivor) set aside, unable to let herself in, a fixture hovering on the emotional outskirts of a community in which “everyone respected her but no one loved (or even really liked) her.

An unlikely heroine, Tracy is a woman whose very giftedness, in the misogynist “old-boys” club world she (and the reader) inhabits, is destined to set her apart. Coupled with the fierceness of her desire to get ahead, to do and be something “bigger”, to fulfill a destiny that has been increasingly and stubbornly anti-climactic thus far, Tracy must learn, the hard way, that winning (or losing) at life, when you come right down to it, is as random and ephemeral as it is illusory.

A sharply insightful read, with a cast of characters as diversely-relatable as they are eclectic, I loved this book, – a captivating and indulgent treat enjoyed on a glorious afternoon.

A great big thank you to @simonschusterCA for an ARC of this fabulous read. All thoughts presented are my own.


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