Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer ( website | twitter )
Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: womanhood, friendship, empowerment, career, family
Format read: A brilliant gift. (Thank you!)
Summary: After a year off from dating and sorting through friendships to eliminate the bad, Anna throws her focus at her career and a new client that could finally set her apart from her colleagues. Armed with inspiration and a handful of complication, she finds herself at a romance novel convention — desperately trying to stay on top of her job and the added challenge of figuring out to do about a guy she uncharacteristically makes out with in an elevator.
Sometimes a book comes along at the perfect moment — when you are sad, when you are seeking a bit of strength, and when you are grappling to understand the changes going on around you. Girl Before a Mirror is that book. As someone who reads plenty, I’ll admit to saying this before but it’s funny — ever since I finished this particular title I find myself recommending it right and left. It’s so relevant to so many situations I’m hearing about and even — the world — where a major motion picture event is based on a self-published book about BDSM and people love standing on their high horse and judging what other people deem as entertainment.
Main character Anna is coming off a year of zero dating, she’s eliminating problematic friends from her life, and she’s taking control of her work situation. As an account executive, she seem the males at her job constantly patted on the back, and she determined to bring in a new account and make a splash. Without genuine support from her firm, she sets out with a rookie colleague (Sasha) to land a body wash account in a surprising place — a popular romance novel convention in Phoenix.
So how does this all connect?
Marketing is all about making two things click, and I don’t think Anna realizes just how great she is at this kind of thing. Taking a washed-up product (ha) and making it new? Sound familiar? This product, in ways, is a reflection of her — uninspired, unsettled, and a bit lost. She, too, is in need of refreshing and the first part of her answer comes in an unexpected form — Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero — the current “it” book urging woman to be the heroes of their own stories. Anna decides to use it as a launching pad for her new campaign — which is how she finds herself meeting the Elaine Stritch-like author, attending pirate booty themed parties, making out with a hot guy in an elevator, and hanging with the mysterious yet capable Sasha at a romance novel convention.
Like many, Anna judges the readers who fancy romance novels and even begrudges the writers who write them. She believes them to be nothing more than a guilty pleasure, and not something people would actually admit to being great stories. So much of what Anna has built herself to be is challenged on this trip. Why does she have to stick her nose up at everything? When did she become THAT person who stomps on those things that make other people happy? Who is she to deem one thing better than another?
In ways, this passion project forces Anna to find her compassion. It forces her to be her own advocate, even when her decisions put her in precarious situations. She must let loose and truly listen to get what she wants, to find some kind of happiness. In truth, she’s only in Phoenix for a few days but it’s such a catalyst for the rest of the story. Ya know, Palmer could have decided to end her book when the conference did, but she pushed Anna to her breaking point. She pushed her to learn more about herself and her limits.
Life is this messy monster, and Palmer speaks that truth in the two books of hers that I’ve read. So much that I found myself questioning my own decisions and wondering if I tried enough, did I think enough about the other person, or was I right to think it was time for me to bow out and try something new? From career decisions to falling in love to friend breakups and fade outs, Girl Before a Mirror spoke to so many of my vulnerabilities but it also urged me to be strong. In a world where women are constantly brought down because of their emotions or mistakes, it’s a revelation to come into contact with characters who are feeling powerless, floundering a little bit, but making the big step to ask themselves the big questions and make things right — no matter how long it takes, no matter how many heartbreaks it takes to get there. Not only this deep stuff, but I can’t forget about how important it is to embrace what you love and continuing to hold it dear even when others don’t understand. There’s a reason why we are gravitate to certain things, and, we shouldn’t have to answer to anyone but ourselves.
There are limitless discussions and feelings to be unearthed in Girl Before a Mirror, and I have a feeling its not quite done with me yet.
Read our joint review of Liza Palmer’s NOWHERE BUT HOME