I gazed at the girl. There was something peculiar about her, about meeting her. My Conch buzzed in an alert pattern. “Say hello,” it said, “To Shelley Stone.”
Shelley Stone has been running Conch from it’s start-up, a company that manufactures a device worn in the ear that gives advice, prompts much like one’s “inner voice” only better! She and her husband Rafe are raising two children, who of course were meant to be geniuses! Four year old Nova sings, plays soccer, is learning Chinese, likes to draw and if she isn’t showing any special gifts, well there is time. At the novel’s beginig she also shows a proclivity for vanishing. Do not be alarmed, this isn’t that sort of tragic story, but in that disappearance so much is evident by Shelley and Rafe’s reactions. Shelley may be a high flying, innovative powerhouse of a woman in a highly competitive tech career but she is completely absent from the present. Unable to find pleasure in anything but working, a worshiper of Mondays, pill popping to keep the energy to stay ahead of…well everything, controlling her entire existence in the world, and ‘planning’ happiness as if it can be ‘scheduled” she is about to meet her young self, in the flesh! Is this a scheme to bring down her technology, her career, her life? Could she really have crossed over into some alternate reality that made it possible to meet herself for a purpose? Maybe she is on the verge of a breakdown. More likely she is losing it and soon there are even bigger problems with the company. Just what is happening, why? Is she to blame?
What made me like this novel so much is daughter Nova, who just by being herself exposes the cracks in Shelley’s life. “Youtubing absense seisures”, that just tickled me! Shelley is clueless when it comes to her kid, forging ahead as if she can ‘will’ her child, as she has willed her great success with Conch, to be a model child. Even youngest, her son Blazer, isn’t free from exposure to a top education with languages and outings. Luckily she has a nanny to help assure her children will have bright futures! This novel is odd, Shelley isn’t the most nurturing woman out there, but isn’t it always more forgivable for a man to be all about his career than a woman? She talks to her children as mini-adults, of course they respond as children will, which is funny. Shelley is modern with a captial M but husband Rafe is sick of innovation, he just wants his wife, more time to be actualy hands on parents and some sleep! She just cannot let go of the hunger for success and wasn’t it Rafe who urged her to take this oppurtunity to begin with?
The Conch is an interesting idea too and not far fetched, come to think of it. There is something creepy about it, as if surrendering control is something so many desire, even if it’s just a voice in your ear or buzzing alerts. The idea that making money, launching a product on time to stay ahead even if it isn’t ready, even if it could be dangerous is more important than the safety of customers is terrifying. Hmm, like most things we buy.
I often wonder about the person behind the public persona of the most successful people, women and men like Shelley. Surely no one can be that ‘together’ all the time. Oh their poor children, all that pushing and pulling to give birth to their best self! How much sacrifice is worth your sanity, safety? It’s about ‘pressures’ but here is hoping no one’s life veers into her sort of problems. Truthfully, Shelley got on my nerves, she is the sort of person that would have far too much energy in the mornings, Monday through Sunday. I could never abide people who can’t simply relax into a moment. For once it seems the husband (Rafe) has a far better insight into what the family needs. But will Shelley be willing jump off the mountain of success she has built? And then what? What would she do if she didn’t have Conch to consume her every thought? Will her ‘younger self’ be a revelation, open her eyes to the dirty side of business?
It’s original but not the time trip I expected, still it’s a good read. People certainly go pretty far in this story to succeed, it’s much more manipulation. Motherhood, career, marriage, maybe she should have it all, but it’s not so easy. If only she would see things and people for who they really are, then maybe things would make sense. Maybe failure can be as much the way as success.
This is an advanced readers edition, and it won’t be out until May.
Publication Date: May 22, 2018