Book Talk: Impersonation by Heidi Pitlor
“ By turns revealing, hilarious, dishy, and razor-sharp, Impersonation lives in that rarest of sweet spots: the propulsive page-turner for people with high literary standards.”
—Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers
About the Book
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 definitions of motherhood have left her a lapsed idealist. Lana Breban is a powerhouse 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 public image and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help.
When Allie lands the job as Lana’s ghostwriter, it seems as if things will finally go Allie’s way. At last, she thinks, there will be enough money not just to pay her bills but to actually buy a house. After years of working as a ghostwriter for other celebrities, Allie believes she knows the drill: she has learned how to inhabit the lives of others and tell their stories better than they can.
But this time, everything becomes more complicated. Allie’s childcare arrangements unravel; she falls behind on her rent; her subject, Lana, is better at critiquing than actually providing material; and Allie’s boyfriend decides to go on a road trip toward self-discovery. But as a writer for hire, Allie has gotten too used to being accommodating. At what point will she speak up for all that she deserves?
A satirical, incisive snapshot of how so many of us now live, Impersonation tells a timely, insightful, and bitingly funny story of ambition, motherhood, and class.
Reviews and What Readers Say
“ Looking for a book that fires up the synapses? Check out Heidi Pitlor’s Impersonation...Pitlor’s voice is witty and brisk, bringing warmth and light to questions of identity, independence and, yes, intellectual property. Who owns your stories? How much are they worth? Allie Lang’s answers are complicated. Watching her reach them is like sitting down with a refreshingly honest friend who skips the part about how great her life is and dives right into the real stuff. We need more friends like this. Authors, too"
—The New York Times Book Review
“ Both the story and its resourceful heroine are fresh, intelligent, and charming."
“ Pitlor’s smart and thought-provoking latest explores the complexities of feminism, privilege, and the telling of one’s life story . . . The sharply observed depictions of how lives are shaped by financial status ring all too true. Fans of Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion will want to take a look."
“ With refreshing humor and an endearing charm all her own, Heidi Pitlor channels the narrative slyness of Rachel Cusk and the political acumen of Rebecca Solnit to deliver this zeitgeisty novel about the struggles of anonymity, accountability, modern-day mothering, and making ends meet in the gig economy. As both loss and possibility swirl around our lost but scrappy heroine, you can’t help but root for her to claim her own voice and personhood. A smart behind-the-scenes tour of the murky world of publishing, politics, and the good people who get caught in the cross-fire." —Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men
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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 Post, Ploughshares, 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.