Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and a perpetually broke single mother to a young boy. Lana Breban is a powerhouse lawyer, economist, and advocate for women’s rights with designs on elected office. She also has a son. Lana and her staff have decided she needs help softening her public image and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help.
How Allie navigates this impossible job, her financial woes and her relationships with her boyfriend and judgmental mother could make for a grim read. Impersonation is anything but. Pitlor’s voice is witty and brisk, bringing warmth and light to questions of identity, independence and, yes, intellectual property. Who owns your stories? How much are they worth? Allie Lang’s answers are complicated. Watching her reach them is like sitting down with a refreshingly honest friend who skips the part about how great her life is and dives right into the real stuff. We need more friends like this. Authors, too.
Pitlor’s genius is that Impersonation doesn’t resort to pitting two women against each other. One woman’s career is circumscribed by care work, and the other’s career is not. But when Allie laments that “integrity—and real feminism—were clearly for people more financially secure than I,” it’s apparent that the issues between this ghostwriter and her client are emblematic of so much more. Impersonation isn’t just a critique of the 'white feminism' of privileged women who prioritize money and success in existing power structures. It’s also more than a critique of the publishing industry, which only cares that Lana seems “maternal” enough to sell parenting books. Impersonation is a critique of our society’s fragile social safety net for so many vulnerable women, full of satirical humor and a lot of harsh truths.
... has so many rich layers for readers to fold back and appreciate. Writers will find themselves chuckling at many of Pitlor’s observations about the realities of their craft; parents will recognize themselves in Allie’s blend of fierce love and outright exhaustion; and many readers with an eye for politics and social movements will appreciate Allie’s growing confusion and disorientation about finding her place --- and a place for her son --- in this increasingly alienating country. Allie’s bittersweet story offers a nuanced portrait of a woman coming to terms with all different sorts of imperfections --- and learning to relish moments of grace whenever she can find them.