Book Review: Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is a fun, multilayered book that’s ultimately an exercise in frustration.
Our title character is a power player in Silicon Valley. In the wake of her husband ‘s affair and a bout of ambition, she decides to leave behind her lucrative and successful career to take the next, public-serving/ego-stroking step: politics.
What follows is an exhausting whirlwind of hand-shaking and pie festivals and a rapidly crumbling marriage. We see a strikingly familiar dirty underbelly among lying politicians who are never fully held accountable for their muckraking and anonymous, misogynist trolls.
Piazza has a knack for showing the price of a seemingly fabulous life. In Fitness Junkie, our main character loses so much weight in her quest for a better self that she makes herself ill. For Charlotte Walsh to have it all, she must risk losing that which is most important.
We meet characters with varying shades of dysfunction. Charlotte ‘s brother could easily be portrayed as an idiotic drunk yokel (and he kind of is, to be honest), but we also get to see a man who honestly tries but just can’t seem to get it together.
What kills it for me is the vague ending.
I don ‘t think my comments are necessarily spoilery since there ‘s nothing to spoil (re: the vague ending). Nonetheless, I don’t want to ruin any sort of surprise. Keep reading at your own risk. Leave it alone to maintain some mystery.
Why oh why would the author give us a vague ending?
I can understand open-ended conclusions in some cases, such as “She opened the door to her new life.” But even in those instances, we have at least some clue of what that life might entail. Door X has been opened and the open, imaginative part is what happens now that our character has walked through it.
But there is no clue here as to where our character will go. She stands before metaphorical doors X and Y and we never discover which one she opens. The entire book has been leading her to these doors, then stops. Just stops. And it’s infinitely frustrating.
This isn’t a conceptual book that merits a vague ending.
It’s plot-driven with definitive points along the way. To suddenly abandon the path at a critical juncture shortchanges the journey the reader has come along for. It shortchanges the reader, period.
Up to the end (notwithstanding a small continuity error in the very end which I’m sure will be corrected before the final print), the book is engaging, interesting, and sinks in enough hooks and surprises to keep the reader going.
But the book is clearly called “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win. ” How can the author finish the book without telling us whether she does? In The Night Circus, it would be unacceptable if we saw our characters preparing for the big event, but never actually went to the circus. Or to never see The Animators animating. Or to find out what happened before the fall in Before the Fall.
I get it. I get that the winning goes beyond the campaign itself. But it is the axis around which the entire book rotates. It feels like the author wasn’t sure which ending would work best, so she just stopped. It’s a shame; the rest of the book is so engaging.
Though mostly enjoyable, I vote for a more definitive ending. This book failed to live up to its campaign promises.
Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win
Publishes July 2018