Published by Henry Holt and Company on August 11th 2015
Buy from IndieBound
After both her and her husband struggle to find work for far too long, Josephine is thrilled when she’s hired to work on “The Database”. In a windowless building that takes up several city blocks, she works in a small office, entering strangely coded numbers in an increasingly mind-numbing task. Over time, Josephine’s once supportive husband grows distant and work on The Database wears at her until she is desperate to discover its true purpose.
In just 192 pages, The Beautiful Bureaucrat packs in the tension of the best thrillers with a double dose of “WHAT IS GOING ON?” for good measure. And Helen Phillips uses every inch of those 192 pages to tell her story, forcing readers to puzzle out the narrative until the very last moment, while also filling them with fabulous wordplay.
“On the wall above the children, there was a poster:
BE SURE TO EAT THREE HOURS
BEFORE DONATING BLOOD
What’s it like to eat three hours? She was feeling impish. How do they taste? Like cotton candy or grass or concrete?”
So many novels of this style wind up either frustratingly confusing or too neat, but Phillips finds a delicate balance with what she chooses to reveal in the end. Both a puzzle and a meditation on life, work, and choice, The Beautiful Bureaucrat is the kind of book you finish and immediately begin again—not because you have to, but you want to.