Blog Tour: Impersonation

Synopsis

Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and a perpetually broke single mother to a young boy. Years of navigating her own and America’s cultural definition of motherhood have left her a lapsed idealist. Lana Breban is a high-profile lawyer, economist, and advocate for women’s rights with designs on elected office. She also has a son. Lana and her staff have decided she needs help softening her image in the eyes of the public and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help.

Allie struggles to write Lana’s book as obstacles pile up: not enough childcare, looming deadlines, an unresponsive subject, an ill-defined romantic relationship on the verge of slipping away. Eventually, Lana comes to require far too much of Allie and even her son. Allie’s ability to stand up for herself and ask for all that she deserves will ultimately determine the power that she can wield over her own life.

With the satirical eye of Tom Perrotta’s Mrs. Fletcher and the incisiveness of Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion, acclaimed writer Heidi Pitlor tells a timely, bitingly funny, and insightful story of ambition, motherhood, and class. 


Review

Ghostwriter Allie is used to stepping into someone else’s shoes and wearing their identities for months at a time. This level of method acting or getting into her subject’s head is required for pulling off a convincing read in someone else’s voice. Unlike actresses however, Allie never gets to take the credit for her work. Some charismatic headliner or successful business woman gets to put their pretty picture on the cover of her books and watch their faces climb the best seller lists. But Allie does not care for the accolades. She just wants to make a good enough living to support her son Cass.

Writing for condescending and sometimes sexist stars can make her job frustrating at times, but Lana Breban, feminist advocate, might be her most challenging client yet. Known for her blue cropped hair and no-nonsense style, Lana is an immigrant who has made her place in the world and has fought for the rights of other women. Allie looks up to her but as she tries to gather personal information for her book, Lana is not very forthcoming. Now that Lana is running for Senate she is not sure if her brand of motherhood appeals to the masses. As she tries to soften her public image Allie’s humble life and experiences seem more of the stuff that voters would like.

Impersonation asks a lot of questions not just about politics, but how we view women and how we judge mothers. Pitlor does start the conversation about modeling feminism for our younger generation in the hope to raise more compassionate and loving men for tomorrow. In the book, Allie tackles with the limits imposed on children by the genderization of babies. She strives to raise Cass in a gender-neutral setting offering him traditionally “feminine” toys like dolls to play with alongside trucks and cars. She also allows Cass to wear clothing of different types and colors but recognizes that other parents are not so open to little boys in pink. Nor will these parents chastise their children for being cruel. Bad behavior is usually explained away as “boys will be boys”.

Although I do not not think everything about motherhood is a feminist discussion, I do feel that oftentimes people feel they have the right to assert themselves in personal matters that are none of their business.

To breast feed or bottle feed? Which is right is a decision made between that mother and that child. I’ve breastfed four children. One I was able to feed on demand. With another we only lasted two months before switching to formula only. A third child was nibbling on chicken bones by 4 months old. The last took to bottle and breast equally. It made him no nevermind how he was eating as long as he had some type of food in his mouth.

What is the right way to disciple your child? Do you give them time out, take away privileges or use rewards as incentive for good behavior? What works with one child does not always work with the next. Nor does it work with the same child day in and day out. Whether she has one child or five, every mom needs to be quick witted and carry many tools in her arsenal.

Impersonation is in part an ode to the many hats that women wear as we make our way through American society. Daughter. Wife. Single mother. Career woman. Sometimes we wear a multitude of titles and they all carry a heavy weight loaded with the expectations of others. Ultimately, it is up to us to decide what works best for our own happiness and learn to advocate for what we want. Don’t apologize for who you are just because it does not fit the definition of who someone else wants you to be.


Meet the Author

Heidi Pitlor is the author of the novels The Birthdays and The Daylight Marriage. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007 and the editorial director of Plympton, a literary studio. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Huffington PostPloughshares, and the anthologies It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers. She lives outside Boston.


Buy Links

Corona Chronicles: Day 22

Being under quarantine can make it difficult to connect with people outside your home especially if you are enjoying loving up on your family. But I found that it is still important for me to reach out to the other readers. Although overwhelming at first, some aspects of virtual life have proven to be easier to navigate than I thought. Let’s not talk about BlackBoard and Connect right now. I still have a steep learning curve there but never fear –help is on the way. (If only McGraw Hill had capes for their tech support.) But I digress. Back to the books. This week I have found my sanity in the virtual book world. Purchase links for all books mentioned can be found below.

Here are some of the awesome events I have “attended”:

My VLF Virtual Literary Festival

MyVLF is a free online literary event space. It is more than just your everyday book club. Here readers get to explore small presses, attend genre specific festivals and chat live with authors. This past week I had the chance to watch a live interview with Maggie O’Farrell author of Hamnet. Listed on the 2020 Women’s Prize Longlist, this is the story of Shakespeare’s marriage, his wife Agnes and the loss of their son. It has been speculated that this tragedy is the inspiration for Hamlet, one of the Bard’s most famous plays. After seeing this interview with Maggie O’Farrell I am even more motivated to read this book. Release date in the US is July 21, 2020. But those of you who are anxious like me can purchase your copy now through Book Depository.


Bethlehem Area Public Library

Online Reading

BAPL patrons were giving the opportunity to meet acclaimed author Stephanie Powell Watts from the comfort of their couch. Ms. Watts was open and friendly with the audience. She talked about what inspires her stories and characters and described her writing process. In light of most of us living under self imposed quarantine Ms. Watts read stories about what it means to be home from her short story collection No One is Coming to Save Us. Moderated by librarian Kate Racculia, the question and answer session that followed the reading was upbeat and engaging.

In addition to book readings Bethlehem Area Public Library is offering online ESL and language study groups, exercise classes and writing workshops. Check with your local library to see what virtual activities are on their event calendar.


Reading With Family

It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan

From the Blurb: After a sudden change of plans, a remarkable woman and her loyal group of friends try to figure out what she’s going to do with the rest of her life—from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale.

My sisters and I are reading It’s Not All Downhill From Here together and discussing it over the phone. It’s a shame it took something like the Covid 19 to get us to do a Buddy Read but so glad that we can connect in this way.


Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

From the blurb: A timely and powerful story about a teen girl from a poor neighborhood striving for success.

During the quarantine I have been having my teenage son choose a book to read each week. Each Friday at dinner we discuss the book and go over what he liked about it and what insights he has gained. What he especially liked about Piecing Me Together was that it taught him an aspect of history (Lewis and Clark expedition) from a perspective he never considered before. He learned that sometimes you have to be open give things a chance lest you miss out on an amazing opportunity.

Where to Purchase