Break in Case of Emergency
"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
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.
Jessica Winter is executive editor of newyorker.com and a former editor at Slate and Time. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Bookforum, The Believer, and many other publications. She lives with her family in Flatbush, Brooklyn.