Women rebel against bad boss in Chandler Baker’s #MeToo book, ‘Whisper Network’
"Whisper Network," by Chandler Baker. (Photo: Flatiron)
Who created the “bad men” spreadsheet? How true are its allegations, and who needs to know? What would happen if you used it to anonymously tell the truth about your boss, who is most definitely a Bad Man?
These questions, familiar from recent headlines, shape the story in Chandler Baker’s contemporary adult novel debut “Whisper Network” (Flatiron, 352 pp., ★★★ out of 4 stars). Told from the alternating perspectives of four women who work at Truviv, a Dallas athleisure company, the novel is interspersed with court transcripts and takes place over a few months surrounding a shocking and potentially criminal act at the company’s headquarters.
Sloane, Grace, and Ardie all hold professional roles in Truviv’s legal department; Rosalita is a cleaner who works nights in the office. All four women have sacrificed family time and devoted strenuous effort to difficult jobs, and each has had run-ins with Ames Garrett, their suave, overly confident and manipulative boss and CEO-to-be. When Katherine, a young new hire in legal, becomes close to Ames, each woman is forced to reckon with her past and decide how — or whether — to help prevent Ames from taking advantage of their new colleague. The problem is, Katherine may have her own agenda, one that doesn’t align with that of the long-time coworkers who believe she needs their help.
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A strong feature of “Whisper Network” is the unnamed narrator at the beginning of each chapter, someone who claims herself to be one of the mass of women working at Truviv. Functioning as a kind of #MeToo era Greek chorus, these sections are vivid and compelling, offering an insider’s perspective on the true cost of female ambition in the workplace. “If time was currency, we were all going broke,” our unnamed narrator observes. “We were working with less time than the men in our office… Sixteen minutes to pick out an outfit. Forty-five minutes of cardio in the evening, followed by the occasional fifteen minutes of abdominal work. If you think we’re making this up, we suggest a quick search through the staff profile pictures to see what we mean.”
Author Chandler Baker. (Photo: Eryn Chandler)
Interspersing this sidelong commentary with Sloan’s fight to prevent Ames from taking agency away from her role, or Grace’s struggle to cope with post-partum depression while still holding down a top position, allows the novel to conjure its title — the way women share stories to gain power in a system that is stacked against them.
“Whisper Network” succeeds as a fast-paced deep dive into gender politics and office culture, less so as a murder mystery whose final chapters veer into formulaic whodunit territory. Far more interesting than the takedown of a caricatured bad boss is the way women at Truviv use skills honed on the job in order to form alliances, create opportunities and protect each other.
Read this novel for a spirited take on the rage that simmers just below the surface of today’s woman in the corner office, the cubicle or the break room.
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