Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store
A former Badger (she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BA in journalism), Lisa Lim has worked as a Technical Writer and Copy Editor. She has also spent time working in at least one call center. This, her debut novel, was shortlisted for Ladies Who Critique’s “Books to Read in 2012” list. < LadiesWhoCritique.com> and featured in The Wall Street Journal blog. For more, visit Lim’s blog.
Madison Lee has a just-printed college diploma in journalism and is ready to join the workforce. Unfortunately, with the economy in shambles and even experienced journalists out of work, her prospects aren’t good. While visiting a friend in a small Idaho city, as a lark, Madison applies for a job at a call center. When she’s offered a position, Madison decides any job is better than none.
I found this book to be both funny and, while a little over-the-top in some regards (often the case with much fiction and a lot of good humor), an accurate enough portrayal of working in a call center for anyone not familiar with what this can be like.
I’ll get back to the positive, but first I’ll tell you a few reasons why some people wouldn’t like Confessions of a Call Center Gal. The first is an idiosyncratic approach to emphasis. This includes occasionally capitalizing all the letters in a word and frequent use of “?!?” as sentence ending punctuation. There are venues where this might be appropriate (informal emails to friends or some internet forums), but in general your words should make the emphasis, if it is needed. A novel isn’t the place to use this technique. Even if it was, the technique loses its effect if overused, which was the case here.
The second issue won’t be a consideration for most people. When a novel is set in a real place, it is important to get the details correct. It doesn’t matter for a reader who isn’t familiar with the town, but it might be for those who are. If these details are integral to the story or plot, it becomes critical.
Anyone familiar with the town where Confessions is set is going to spot numerous things that don’t ring true and some complete errors of fact. For example, the apartment Madison moves into is at least twice as tall as any building in town. None of this is integral to the story and most readers won’t recognize any of the issues I spotted as unrealistic. However, using a fictional town would have worked just as well and would probably have been a better choice. Had the book been set in a large city such as New York or Chicago, it would matter that much more.
It feels like after writing this much negative, I shouldn’t have liked Confessions, yet I did. Although it has been a while since I’ve had to work in one of those low-paid, thankless jobs largely populated by students and recent graduates trying to pay the bills until they can jumpstart their career, I remember enough about what it was like to know Lim nailed it. It is a mixture of fun and frustration, camaraderie and infighting, and experiences both satisfying and infuriating. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid a call center job, but from working with people responsible for those functions, and hearing stories from numerous friends and family members who have worked in call centers (several in the city where this book takes place), Madison’s experiences are realistic (no matter how farfetched some might seem). Last, the rest of the story ingredients needed to transform this from a fictionalized memoir into an entertaining and humorous piece of chick-lit are all in place.
There is some adult language and adult situations.
The author has the following disclaimer as part of her current book description on Amazon:
“If you find politically incorrect shows like The Office, South Park and Chelsea Lately detestable, juvenile and offensive, then this book is probably NOT for you.”
I found much of the book funny and amusing. Until reading this disclaimer, it didn’t occur to me that others might not, but apparently, there are those who don’t. Let this disclaimer be your guide.
Not counting the punctuation idiosyncrasies discussed in the appraisal section, I found typos and other proofing errors near the upper end of my “small number of errors” classification.
Rating: **** Four stars