book review · The Good Life

It Matters Who Tells the Story

We tell our stories

Through our own experience,

Views, lies, truth tangled….

We do our best.

In the remarkable Amanda Wakes Up by Alysin Camerota, cable television morning anchor Amanda Gallo lands the job of her dreams and wakes up to herself. Dressed, coiffed, and coached, Amanda is a terrific newswoman who learns to trust her gut, to leverage her education and experience to guide her ethical decisions and to tell the story that viewers can use to make up their own minds about issues and world events. Barreling through grueling days jammed with humor, smart banter, neverending judgment, and jaw-dropping stupidity, Amanda is the friend that you want at your side, behind your back, and on the air.

This debut novel is fast-paced, lush with exceptionally well-developed primary and secondary characters (my personal favorite is a security guard from Jersey — or maybe it’s punning Larry — or Margot, the clueless — or agile, resourceful Laurie, producer and best friend — there are so many great ones that it’s impossible to choose). What remains are vivid impressions of how people shape and react in their high-pressure, reactive world of media — characters so real that you feel like you could run into them on the street or feel like you’ve seen them on television.

Camerota builds a vibrant, reality-based world (perhaps both more complicated and easier because of her own television broadcasting experience). What’s more, she builds it with love and compassion, with an even-handed, wise perspective that gives everyone their chance to live, thrive, and be their own truest selves.

Ultimately, the story is an exceptionally satisfying read. We are caught up in Amanda’s coming into her own truest self, drawing on her inner resources and experience to develop into an exceptionally true, grounded, wise and loving person. Part of the genius of the novel is consistent, passionate encouragement to become open to ideas, concepts, and people that you have never before considered deeply.

One of the things that I loved best about this story — other than the fact that I never knew what was coming next and had to keep on reading late into the night to find out — is the genuine respect, love, and appreciation for others that glows throughout. Amanda comes into her own during a stunning, fictitious election season that feels all too close to real world turmoil where the right and best thing is never obvious and we all muddle through the best way that we know how (it’s astounding how well a story written years ago reflects today).

You can see this novel being made into a movie — in which case, make sure you also read the book. Give yourself the gift of a thoughtful, thought-provoking, fun story.

Amanda Gallo might be likened to a duck: gliding smoothly along the surface of the water and paddling like crazy underneath…

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