#25 Book Review: Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
Once again, Jo Piazza has written a quite likable book with a compelling main character. The two books I previously read were both very enjoyable: The Knockoff and Fitness Junkie. Charlotte Walsh is around the same age as the other two main characters in Piazza's previous books. All are women in their forties, at the height of their careers and something happens to completely change their day to day lives. For Charlotte Walsh, a Sheryl Sandberg-like character, her decision to run for Senate is a personal one and not something externally forced upon her. Her decision to run puts numerous strains on her life, impacting her husband and their troubled marriage, uprooting her children to a new state, taking a sabbatical from her job, and changing the nature of her relationships with her staff and friends.
The book was clearly written after the 2016 presidential election, and I quite liked that Trump’s name is never mentioned in the book. However, we all know exactly why Charlotte decided to run, as she feels compelled to take on Washington thanks to that recent election.
The novel focused on the path to Election Night and the incredible strains political campaigns put on candidates in modern society, especially upon women. For example, Charlotte finds that she needs an Instagram consultant among other things. and another account is dedicated to her daily campaign shoe choice. I could absolutely see this happening in a modern campaign, and would be shocked if a female candidate doesn’t already have something similar posted about them daily. Her campaign’s press coverage is usually reduced to a sound bite that has nothing to do with her policies.
At one point well into the campaign, Charlotte thinks: I’m not conveying intelligence or the ability to promote policies that would quite possibly make a difference in these people’s lives. I’m not speaking truth to power. The only thing I now convey is “Like me,” “Forgive me,” “Pardon me.”
This quote made me very sad. Perhaps I am too close to politics these days, but it is very true. Candidates are no longer judged by their policy positions but on their sounds bites. Especially women, who seem to constantly need to justify their candidacy in ways that men do not have to do. Piazza did a nice job in creating a stereotypical old white guy opponent in Tug Slaughter. His campaign constantly belittled her based on her gender, creating rumors that only targeted her status as a mother and a woman.
I wouldn’t mind a sequel to Charlotte's story, though it defeats the purpose of the book. But I want more women like Charlotte Walsh (despite some rather serious personal failings) to be in elected office.
Oh, and just for fun, I really like this quote from the book: "Being a mediocre white guy doesn’t mean you deserve to be crowned a king, get a job, or get laid.” Preach.