Break in Case of Emergency

Jen has reached her early thirties and has all but abandoned a once-promising painting career when, spurred by the 2008 economic crisis, she takes a poorly defined job at a feminist nonprofit. The foundation’s ostensible aim is to empower women, but staffers spend all their time devising acronyms for imaginary programs, ruthlessly undermining one another, and stroking the ego of their boss, the larger-than-life celebrity philanthropist Leora Infinitas.

Jen’s complicity in this passive-aggressive hellscape only intensifies her feelings of inferiority compared to her two best friends—one a wealthy attorney with a picture-perfect family, the other a passionately committed artist—and so does Jen’s apparent inability to have a baby, a source of existential panic that begins to affect her marriage and her already precarious status at the office. As Break in Case of Emergency unfolds, a fateful art exhibition, a surreal boondoggle adventure in Belize, and a devastating personal loss conspire to force Jen to reckon with some hard truths about herself and the people she loves most.

Jessica Winter’s ferociously intelligent debut novel is a wry satire of celebrity do-goodism as well as an exploration of the difficulty of navigating friendships as they shift to accommodate marriage and family, and the unspoken tensions that can strain even the strongest bonds.

Advance Praise

“If you need a New York map of our times, have Jessica Winter become your cartographer.  Sassy, sarcastic and sleek, this is a wonderfully brash appraisal of how we live.”
—Colum McCann, National Book Award–winning author of Let the Great World Spin

“Jessica Winter nails the moment in your life when you go from “young” to “no longer young”—that see-saw teetering point between your 20s and 30s, and its specific mix of ignorance you’ll be embarrassed by later, and confidence you’ll someday wish you could have back.  If you’re wondering what it’s like to live in New York when you’re young, just buy Jessica Winter’s book.  It’s funny, satirical, and deftly written. And it’s much cheaper than a 2-bedroom in Brooklyn.”
—Mike Schur, co-creator of Parks and Recreation

“Jessica Winter is so insanely whip-smart and her novel, which I could not stop reading, made me see the world differently whenever I lifted my eyes from the pages. Winter possesses that magical ability to render the familiar absurd and the absurd familiar, and to create characters that break your heart. “Break in the Case of Emergency” is one of those books I considered my companion, and I missed it when it was over.”
—Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock

“Jessica Winter has given us not just one of the funniest books of the year, but an entire glorious comic universe that’s as addictive as it is immersive.  Not a page goes by without a half dozen delights.  Half dozen to a dozen.  Sometimes more”
—Ed Park, author of Personal Days

“Break in Case of Emergency is compelling, funny, sad, moving, and ultimately uplifting. Winter is one of the best satirists of the workplace I’ve read in years; she has a deadly ear for the belief-defying hypocrisies of the office and the art world. But she’s also a tender portraitist of the bonds of love, family, and friendship, and of the thousand little (and not so little) ways a person can defeat herself in the search for happiness. I couldn’t put this book down.”
—Paul La Farge, author of Luminous Airplanes

“Break In Case of Emergency is brimming with sharp, bitingly funny commentary on the absurdities that abound in the world of celebrity philanthropy, and the seeming impossibilities of modern adulthood, but it also gives us smart, lovable characters to guide us through the maze.”
—Caroline Zancan, author of Local Girls

“Brilliant, tender, and wrenching…Jessica Winter has a voice unlike anyone. Her intelligence literally stops me mid-sentence and makes me marvel. She captures her moment in time the way Edith Wharton captured hers.”
—Luanne Rice, author of The Secret Language of Sisters

“Curious, captivating.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Entertaining and smartly satirical…This is both a biting lampoon of workplace politics and a heartfelt search for meaning in modern life.” (More)
—Publishers Weekly