Charlotte Walsh is on the 2018 campaign trail trying to win a Pennsylvania Senate seat but, as we all know, women running for office face some crazy challenges. Come along for the ride in Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza, on sale July 24th. It’s your typical female campaign book in a lot of ways but it’s told in great language and in a compelling way.
Charlotte Walsh is living a life high-powered women only dream of. She’s the COO of Humanity, a wildly successful company innovating our daily lives. She’s married to Max, the head of engineering at Humanity. Together they have three kids under six, twins and a younger miracle baby.They’re wealthy out the wahoo and seemingly happy, which is why Charlotte thinks it’s time for change. She upends her life, moves back to her hometown in Pennsylvania, and announces she’s running for the Senate against the long-time incumbent Ted Slaughter who is in his eighties and shows no sign of giving up his seat. Along for the ride is her young ingenue campaign manager and her long-term assistant, plus her washed-up addict brother and his darling wife. As the campaign progress, Charlotte’s marriage is tested in ways she did and didn’t expect, her relationship with her family ebbs and flows, and she realizes that however far she has come she can still go further.
I really enjoyed this book. Let me start by saying that. It’s well-told and I liked the characters even when they infuriated me. I loved the structure that jumped through time easily so that we didn’t have to get bogged down in “And the next week and the next day and then a month later..” I also enjoyed the tracking of the polls at the beginning of each section. However, I do think this just really fed into the trap of what women in politics are SUPPOSED to face: specifically issues of infidelity. Not every powerful woman has a cheating husband. I get that it makes a good husband and I do think Piazza complicated that narrative by involving Charlotte like she did, which was a cool twist, but it’s really tiring me. I want scandals like selling state secrets and stuff, things a man or a woman could do regardless of their gender. Also why is every book about a woman running for office about a Democrat woman? I digress.
The characters in this book felt fresh and realized even in a plot that felt a little familiar. Charlotte is an older character, 47, that still feels vibrant and full of life without feeling like a 20-year-old. Max was complicated, more so than you might realize, but you kind of loved it the whole time. All of the children felt unique and like individuals, which is not something you often see in literature that focuses on adults. I’m sure people will eat this book up as it’s an election year and the Year of the Woman, but let’s remember what the ending teaches us: it’s about the journey, not the outcome of the race. Or something like that.